North Carolina's 11th District is one of the few regularly shaped districts in this grossly gerrymandered state. It begins in the far southwest corner of the state, and then works its way across western North Carolina to Asheville. The district is not a bastion of mountain Republicanism -- those voters are largely in the neighboring 10th District. From 1976 through 1990 it switched parties six times.
Heath Shuler, a standout quarterback at the University of Tennessee, defeated ethically challenged Congressman Charles Taylor in 2006 with a surprising 54 percent of the vote. Shuler won a solid re-election in 2008 with 62 percent support. Shuler had previously been recruited by Republicans to run in the neighboring 1st District of Tennessee, so unsurprisingly he had a conservative voting record for a Democrat.
He ran well in 2010, winning by 8.6 points, albeit against an uninspiring opponent. But in 2012 he opted to call it a career, announcing his retirement from the House. This was likely in response to redistricting, which removed most of left-leaning Asheville from the district, and made the seat about six points more Republican. Shuler's chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, faces an uphill climb against investor Mark Meadows.