Heath Shuler for… governor?

Heath Shuler campaigns for John Edwards in 2008. Image credit: John Edwards.
Heath Shuler campaigns for John Edwards in 2008. Image credit: John Edwards.

Heath Shuler campaigns for John Edwards in 2008. Image credit: John Edwards.

RALEIGH – Jones+Blount has learned that former NFL quarterback and Congressman Heath Schuler may be considering a run at the governor’s mansion. This from folks around the state capital, known for having their finger on the pulse of inside base… er… football. They say Washington political analysts are burning up the phone lines to the old North State with questions about Shuler’s possible bid.

Jones & Blount huddled with two experienced Raleigh politicos for their take on a Shuler candidacy. Both said they had heard Shuler mentioned as a possible U.S. Senate candidate, but not governor.

Gary Pearce, a former key policy and political adviser to Gov. Jim Hunt (D), says he finds a Shuler drive for the Blount Street mansion “very dubious.”

Pearce says N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is so far ahead of anyone else in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial primary that a Shuler entry into the race would be a “kamikaze mission.”

“He’s from the western part of the state, he would have to raise a huge amount of money, and he would get an awful lot of discouragement,” Pearce said.

Carter Wrenn, a long-time Republican strategist who writes about N.C. politics with Pearce at www.talkingaboutpolitics.com, says that Shuler would be a “strong candidate” in the general election but agrees with Pearce that a primary against a mainline Democrat would be a Hail Mary.

“He’s not liberal enough to appeal to Democrat primary voters,” said Wrenn. “He was a Blue Dog Democrat in Congress.”

Contacted about the rumors, Shuler released a statement through Duke Energy, where he works as head of federal government relations:  “I am enjoying my work for Duke Energy, a great company, and that is my focus.”

While Shuler’s home is in Asheville, his job for the utility giant means he spends plenty of time in the nation’s capital.

Will Shuler volunteer for the race or punt on the chance? If he did suit up, what would a Cooper-Shuler primary look like? We’ll have to wait and see.