I live in the NC-11 district, which succeeded in finally replacing slumlord Charles Taylor [a.k.a. “Chainsaw Charlie”] with ex-football heartthrob and semi-Democrat Heath Shuler in the ’06 election. I say semi-Democrat because he’s a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, though less of a hypocritical opportunist than most of the others. Thus he does a pretty good job of actually representing his constituency, which in this corner of southern Appalachia is quite conservative. He’s a local boy made good and a source of some pride for all, thus was the perfect candidate to field against Chainsaw Charlie. Largest source of income in this way-back corner of the state is tourism, so our beautiful forests and mountains are worth way more to us intact than as wood chips or parking lots for Charlie’s puppeteers.
Heath easily carried all 15 counties in the district in ’08, including Henderson, a county primarily populated by native apple farmers, wealthy lawyers and retirees from Florida, and New Jersey ex-pats with Italian surnames and bodyguards. Having met Heath several times during his original campaign, he’s a nice kid with a good heart and honest as the day is long, so I like him. He’s frustrating sometimes, but I’m enough of a realist to know most folks here aren’t nearly as leftist as me, and I’m not the only person he was elected to serve. We’re watching closely, and will take him down at primary as soon as he shows signs of selling out the real ag/tourism base as Charlie did.
The demographics are slowly but surely changing by attrition as the old folks die and lots of DFHs [Dirty F’king Hippies] move in to homestead the countryside and participate in A-ville’s growing reputation as “New Age Mecca.” I’ve got my issues with the DFHs too, but when they can be motivated to vote they are strongly progressive. We’ve a number of great colleges and Universities in the district as well, and students are also a reliable bloc for Dems. There is no doubt that one of these days it will be time to move farther toward the progressive end of the spectrum, so Heath may end up in the Senate if we can arrange for him to run against Burr while we replace him here.
Anyway, Heath is surprisingly bright for a jock, so you might be interested in how he’s handling the ugly Teabagger contingent mobilized to disrupt, harrass and incite violence at the town halls congressmembers are holding during this summer recess. There is a rather large and loud Teabagger contingent in this district, as terminally stupid as anyone else’s and nearly as spaced-out as the hard-core guru branches of the DFHs. Shuler has scheduled not one but two town hall meetings this recess, and if he didn’t play it smart things would no doubt get extremely ugly (most of the Teabaggers in this neck of the woods may always be assumed armed and dangerous).