North Carolina (08)
Outlook: Leans Republican
This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.
November 6, 2006 Update:
Rep. Robin Hayes (R) will win reelection over Larry Kissell (D). Whether the national campaign committees believe us or not, we’re convinced that a close congressional race has taken place in this district. The late-to-start Kissell is working hard to remind voters in textile country of Hayes’ vote in favor of CAFTA, and the district’s urban and suburban Charlotte portions are trending towards Democrats nationally. If there is one race that has not received national attention that could surprise on Election Night, it may well be this one. Still, Hayes knows never to take his reelection campaigns for granted, and we see him winning a narrower-than-anticipated victory.
North Carolina (11)
Outlook: Leans Democratic
This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.
November 8, 2006 Update:
Democrat Heath Shuler unseated Republican Charles Taylor.
November 6, 2006 Update:
Heath Shuler (D) will unseat Rep. Charles Taylor (R). We continue to believe that this district represents the best pickup opportunity for Democrats in the South. Over the past year, lingering questions about Shuler’s ability to adapt to political campaigning have largely been put to rest, and Taylor has not closed as strongly as he has in past cycles more hospitable to the GOP. Republicans still love to remind voters what happened last time ex-Redskins Quarterback Shuler was employed in Washington, but we bet that after November, it will be Taylor’s turn to seek out a new line of work.
August 28, 2006 Update:
Sure, Democratic challenger Heath Shuler looks strong now, but when will GOP Rep. Charles Taylor make his move? We’ve learned never to underestimate this particular incumbent late in the cycle.
June 29, 2006 Update:
Sure, Democratic challenger Heath Shuler out-raised GOP Rep. Charles Taylor 2-1 in the first quarter of 2006, but we can be sure that Taylor, true to form, will kick in as much of his own personal fortune as he feels necessary late in the game. Still, Taylor has never faced an atmosphere quite as adverse to his party as 2006 presents, so we’ll be watching this one closely.
February 2006 Outlook:
In the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, GOP Rep. Charles Taylor has consistently faced credible opposition and survived by closing campaigns strong and finishing with about 55 percent of the vote. The region’s only member on the powerful Appropriations Committee, Taylor has been able to point to funding he has secured for local projects, and last year defeated Democrat ,b>Patsy Keever, who made funding for troops abroad a major issue in the race. In the past, however, this district has not been impervious to political change. While it was one of Bush’s stronger districts in the state last year, then-challenger John Edwards carried it in his 1998 race for Senate, and Asheville’s Buncombe County retains a strong Democratic heritage.
This year, Democratic hopeful and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler has been touted as one of national Democrats’ “star recruits,” a descriptive not unfamiliar to Shuler, who was best known during the ’90s when he was leading the Vols to victory at the University of Tennessee. Shuler starts the campaign cycle with not only great name identification and some access to money, but an issue on which to take Taylor to task: earlier this year, Taylor’s make-or-break vote on CAFTA, hugely unpopular in this blue-collar district, went mysteriously unrecorded by the House’s vote tallying system even though Taylor had previously stated his opposition.
For their part, Republicans have labeled the North Carolina newcomer Shuler a carpetbagger, and it is true that Shuler remains completely untested as a political candidate. The bottom line? If these hills are home to rebellious voter sentiment in 2006, Shuler will be able to make this a genuinely competitive race. But without a national Democratic wind at his back, Shuler’s run for Congress will be the political equivalent of a Hail Mary.