N.C. Rep. Shuler pushes Democrats toward center

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler is pushing the Democratic Party to adopt more centrist policies after the GOP’s huge gains nationwide in this month’s election. And he’s looking to President Barack Obama to follow suit.

With many moderate Democrats and even some liberals saying the party needed a change of leadership after the election losses, Shuler led a largely symbolic campaign this past week to become the top Democrat in the U.S. House. He took more than 20 percent of votes within the Democratic caucus but still lost to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The moderate lawmaker who represents the mountains of North Carolina believes the effort conveyed a message: “We have to be more of a centrist caucus. We can’t just have a platform that’s to the left,” he told The Associated Press.

Republicans seized control of the House after a string of victories on Nov. 2. Many of the wins came against conservative Democrats who had struggled to overcome the perception that they were little more than followers of Pelosi’s liberal leadership. Shuler himself was forced to run ads in which he declared: “I’m not Nancy Pelosi.”

Shuler also blamed the party’s leadership for crafting legislation with only a small segment of the caucus and then introducing the measures with what he considered to be ideas that were too liberal. He suggested that the more moderate members of the party should have also had a voice in crafting bills so that they could unify around the proposal.

The former University of Tennessee football star and NFL quarterback expects those procedures to change. Shuler also expects Obama to follow the lead of moderate Democrats such as himself — the so-called Blue Dogs.

“He has to be where the Blue Dogs are in order for him to be re-elected,” Shuler said.

Shuler said he will not vote for either Pelosi or Republican leader John Boehner when it is time to formally vote for speaker. He plans to vote for himself.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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