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Friday, September 8, 2006
Amid the din of politics, Redskins' fan cries: 'Stop Shuler!'

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the mountains of western North Carolina, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler talks about illegal immigration and the Iraq war as he tries to oust Republican Rep. Charles Taylor in one of the more competitive House races.

Thousands of miles away, in San Diego, Jason Woodmansee fears a crucial issue is being overlooked.

"From an objective, quantitative viewpoint, Shuler was a terrible NFL quarterback," Woodmansee writes on his blog, www.StopShuler.com. "He completely failed at the one thing he was trained to do out of college, and yet was paid millions of dollars. The last thing we need in Washington is someone who gets paid a lot of money to do a lousy job."

Don't go to Woodmansee's site if you want nuanced debate on the candidates and their positions. He has only one thing on his mind: Keeping the former Redskins quarterback from getting back to Washington

"There are certainly former athletes that run for Congress or office, happens all the time," Woodmansee said in a phone interview from his home. "But there are very few who played in Washington and would be returning. And there certainly haven't been many cases where the person has failed in Washington and now wants to go back.

"(You) don't want Shuler's stench of failure rubbing off on the current Redskins."

Shuler's campaign has followed Woodmansee's online campaign with amusement.

"He is a very fervent Redskins fan, and we applaud that kind of devotion," Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen said Friday. "My fantasy team is especially hoping for a good season from (Redskins running back) Clinton Portis."

The 34-year-old Woodmansee, a graduate of George Washington University, was living in Washington in 1994 when the Redskins selected Shuler with the third pick in the NFL draft. Shuler was highly regarded, having finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy the previous year while at Tennessee.

The Redskins were just two years removed from a Super Bowl win, and Dallas Cowboys coordinator Norv Turner had been hired to succeed then-retired coach Joe Gibbs. As Woodmansee recalls, the idea was that with Shuler, running back Stephen Davis and receiver Michael Westbrook, Turner would duplicate the Troy Aikman-Emmitt Smith-Michael Irvin trio that led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s.

Instead, Shuler held out during his rookie training camp for a big contract and played in only 19 games over the next three years, with the Redskins winning just four.

So far, Woodmansee hasn't been impressed with the efforts by Taylor, an eight-term Republican incumbent, to beat back Shuler's challenge. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"(We) are sick of standing idly by while Taylor screws up this campaign. If he is afraid to talk about the REAL issues in this campaign, we aren't. Here is our TV ad," he wrote on the blog, next to the first of his two anti-Shuler "attack ads."

With the requisite ominous music and voiceover and grainy black-and-white photos, the ads -- which Woodmansee also posted on YouTube.com -- are pitch-perfect satires of a dark political art. They've helped draw attention to his site, which Woodmansee says "is obviously a joke."

"The ads are very funny, and Heath had a good laugh at them," Whalen said.

Now living in San Diego, where he works for Digitaria, an interactive ad agency, Woodmansee is a Democrat and recognizes that a Shuler win over Taylor could help Democrats take control of the House.

But he places Redskins loyalty ahead of party loyalty.

In the end, whether Democrats or Republicans control the House doesn't matter, he said. "The really important thing is football. A Redskins Super Bowl vs. a Democratic Congress? That's not really that hard of a choice."

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On the Web:

Stop Shuler: http://www.stopshuler.com

Shuler's campaign site: http://www.heathshuler.com