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Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler to retire from Congress

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Representative Heath Shuler said on Thursday he would not seek a fourth term representing a North Carolina congressional district that was redrawn to include more Republican voters.

Shuler, a former professional football player who was first elected in 2006, said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two young children.

"I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician," Shuler said in a statement.

The congressman is co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative and moderate Democrats. In 2010, he unsuccessfully challenged California Representative Nancy Pelosi in the race for House minority leader.

Shuler previously had criticized North Carolina's Republican-led legislature for redrawing his 11th Congressional District in a way that carved out many Democratic voters.

He said he considered running for governor after Democratic incumbent Bev Perdue announced last week that she also would not seek re-election, but ultimately decided against a gubernatorial bid.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)