Heath Shuler doesn’t even bother with political artifice. He candidly admits he doesn’t have a prayer of defeating Nancy Pelosi Wednesday for the post of minority leader.
But winning isn’t really the point. The North Carolina Democrat has been battling his California colleague in one form or another almost from the moment he entered the political arena. So for Shuler, it’s a fight worth having, a useful reminder to his constituency that he tried to stand up to the liberals in the Democratic Party.
Likewise, Shuler has served Pelosi’s political interests as well over the years. The election of Blue Dogs such as Shuler from places traditionally hostile to Democrats enabled Pelosi to become speaker in the first place.
So Wednesday’s conflict is a little more complicated than just a simple clash between Shuler’s “mountain family values” and Pelosi’s San Francisco-tinged liberalism.
Both in Washington and at home in his conservative Western North Carolina-based district, Pelosi has been a major presence in Shuler’s career — in ads that dogged him in 2006 to mailers that featured her visage in 2010.