Jackson County Republican Mark Meadows, a real estate developer who served one term as chairman of Macon County’s Republican Party, recently announced his candidacy to unseat Democratic Representative Heath Shuler.
Meadows has been married to his wife Debbie for 32 years. The couple resides in Cashiers and has two children together, Blake and Haley.
His decision to run makes him one of four other Republican challengers who have thrown their names in the hat to take on Shuler, in what is setting up to be a hotly contested Congressional race. Local district attorney Jeff Hunt, tea-party candidate Dan Eichenbaum, retired Army officer Spence Campbell, and economic development consultant Chris Petrella will also be opposing Meadows in the 2012 primary.
Meadows hopes his campaign will offer Western North Carolinians a clear choice between a staunch conservative and a Democratic incumbent his campaign perceives to be as just another rank and file liberal.
“I think it’s time for us to make some tough decisions about our country’s future, and it’s going to take some people who are not politicians to turn our economy around and take our country back,” said Meadows. “For far too long our nation has been spending too much, and now we are at a crossroads,” continued Meadows. “I just think it’s time for Congress to take the initiative and do what’s right for our country, and if I’m fortunate enough to serve as the Representative of the 11th Congressional District, I will work hard to make sure future generations do not have to pay our bills,” stated Meadows.
Assuming Meadows can get past his primary opponents, which will not be easy, he will undeniably face an uphill battle against Shuler. The sitting representative has every advantage of incumbency. Since he ousted former Rep. Charles Taylor in 2006, Shuler has won two previous reelection campaigns by comfortable margins. Even in the 2010 midterms, when the political climate was feverishly hostile to Congressional Democrats, Shuler managed to defeat GOP challenger Jeff Miller by eight percentage points.
Shuler has garnered substantial support from Democratic and Republican constituents in past elections, attributed to his leadership in the Blue Dog Coalition and his conservative stance on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Shuler also voted against TARP, the 2009 stimulus package, and the President’s health insurance reform bill in 2010. Even more startling to some liberals was Shuler’s vote for a balanced budget amendment earlier this year.
Although Shuler’s voting record portrays a moderate Democrat, Meadows remains unconvinced. When I asked him where he and Shuler diverged on the issues, it was clear that the new challenger had done his homework.
“I would have voted to repeal Obamacare, that’s the first thing that sets us apart,” Meadows explained. “His party leaders let him vote against Obamacare because the bill had already passed, but when he voted against its repeal, I think that showed his true colors,” said Meadows.
Meadows believes Shuler’s support for the 2009 Cap and Trade bill, along with his vote for the union’s card check bill in 2010, proves that Shuler is a typical Washington Democrat.
Meadows also discussed his support for a balanced budget amendment, efforts to reduce the corporate tax rate, and the need for Congress to eliminate excessive federal regulations to spur job creation. Meadows also believes in enacting entitlement reforms. “We must support our seniors and fulfill our obligations to them, but we have to do something to shore up some of the entitlement programs in the long-run,” said Meadows.
Notwithstanding, the Meadows campaign has their hands full as they prepare to take on four primary opponents. That’s the bad news for his campaign. The good news for Meadows and other Republicans is the new redistricting lines, which if approved, will make Rep. Shuler even more vulnerable in next year’s race.
According to the politically astute pundits at rollcall.com, Shuler is set to lose three-quarters of Democratic voters from the city of Asheville if the new redistricting lines passed by the state legislature last summer remain intact. Adding salt to the wounds of Democrats, the gerrymandering could place the Republican leaning counties of Avery, Burke, Caldwell, and Mitchell in the 11th district as well.
Republican gerrymandering would place more registered Republicans in the 11th Congressional District than any other district in the state. Consequently, experts at rollcall.com have designated the 2012 house race as a toss-up.
Of course Meadows has a long way to go if he wants to upset Shuler next fall, but he believes his business experience and conservative political philosophy will make him an attractive option for mountain Republicans. “I know Western North Carolina can do better. They deserve better,” concluded Meadows.