Dems launch early attack against Rep. Shuler challenger

Democrats have launched an early offensive against the likely challenger to Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.).

Republican Jeff Miller hasn't yet been certified as the 11th district GOP nominee but Democrats are already saying he "can't be trusted" -- an attack national Republicans call "laughable."

A story in the Hendersonville Times-News in January said that Miller "met with local political officials and representatives from the National Republican Congressional Committee." Miller and the NRCC deny any meeting took place, but the conjecture has made its way into other reports about his candidacy.

"I would like to thank Jeff Miller for making crystal clear on his first day as nominee for Congress that he can't be trusted to tell the truth to the voters of Western North Carolina," Andrew Whalen, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement Thursday.

Republicans are adamant that no meeting took place.

"We have never met with Jeff -- we look forward to doing so," said Andy Sere, a spokesman for the NRCC. "Obviously we have talked to him via phone like we do most candidates."

Brian Barrett, Miller's campaign manager, said the Hendersonville businessman participated in a conference call organized by the committee and spoke to NRCC staff in Washington over the phone while they attempted to recruit him to run. "They were trying really hard over six months to get him to run," Barrett said. "We haven't officially met with them."

Miller hasn't even been certified as the official GOP nominee. He took 40.15 percent of the vote on Tuesday but elections officials are still counting provisional ballots, which could force a runoff if they go exclusively to Dan Eichenbaum (R), Barrett said.

Meanwhile, Shuler pulled in only 61.6 percent of the vote against the unknown Democrat Aixa Wilson, who got 38.4 percent in Tuesday's primary. Shuler's performance, after more than four years in office, seems to have worried Washington and North Carolina Democrats.