By Kelly McCormack - 12/08/05 12:00 AM EST
As the political climate has turned sour for Republicans, Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) finds himself trailing his Democratic challenger by tens of thousands of dollars, dogged by ethics charges and running in an increasingly Democratic district.
Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler (D) is challenging Taylor, in the 11st District, in rural, western North Carolina.
At the end of the third quarter, Shuler had $248,957 in the bank while Taylor had just $19,369, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
During the same period, Shuler raised $263,642; Taylor took in $134,791. In recent months, prominent Democratic Reps. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), who is running for Senate, Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) donated to the Shuler campaign.
“Shuler is young, attractive and vivacious,” Kathy Willis, a former chairwoman of the 11th District’s Republican Party, said. “You take it [the election] seriously.”
Shuler’s campaign manager, Drew Lieberman, refused to comment at length on Shuler’s fundraising prowess, saying only: “We’re off to a great start. We’ll have all the money we need in the campaign.”
Some Republicans say Shuler is drawing most of his support from neighboring Tennessee. And Dave Sawyer, the current head of the 11th District GOP, questioned why Shuler waited until 2003 to move back to North Carolina.
Sawyer also acknowledged that “we’ve got to do our work.”
“Registration numbers are against us, but both Republicans and Democrats are very comfortable with [Taylor’s] work in the district,” he said.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg called Taylor “one of the top 15 richest guys in Congress” and said he routinely “dumps millions of his own money into the race.”
Feinberg also pointed to past ethical issues. Taylor’s former campaign treasurer earlier pleaded guilty to bank fraud. Willis brushed the ethics allegations aside.
Democratic attempts to tie Taylor to the ethics charge seem to be part of Democrats’ national “culture of corruption” strategy to discredit congressional Republicans.
First-term Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) said: “There is no member as effective at getting things done for his district as Representative Charles Taylor. That is what matters to the voters of his district and that is why Heath Shuler has no chance of winning.”