This is not to be confused with a "healer."
(Oxford English Dictionary)
One who follows at the heels of a leader or 'boss'; an unscrupulous or disreputable follower of a professional politician. U.S.
a1877 N.Y. Herald in Bartlett Dict. Amer. (1877) s.v., The politician, who has been a heeler about the capital. 1888 BRYCE Amer. Commw. II. III. lxiii. 451 By degrees he rises to sit on the central committee, having..surrounded himself with a band of adherents, who are called his 'heelers', and whose loyalty..secured by the hope of 'something good', gives weight to his words. 1901 Daily Chron. 6 Nov. 6/2 The assurance of the Tammany 'Heelers' was less blatant than usual. 1933 H. G. WELLS Shape of Things to Come III. 311 The specialist demagogue, sustained by his gang and his heelers, his spies and secret police.
(Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, H-O)
heeler n. [fr. heel '(of a dog) to follow at the heels'; cf. HEEL, v. 3]
Pol. a hanger-on or adherent of a politician or political party who usu. carries outthe orders of political bosses in the hope of personal aggrandizement. - used contemptuously. Now rare except as (now S.E.) ward-heeler.
1876 in American Speech XXVII (1952) 165: As the crowd dispersed...a gentleman happened to say that the gang in the room was composed of Tammany "heelers," when a Tammany retainer taking umbrage at the epithet knocked the gentleman down.
8 November 1871, New York Times, pg. 2:
A friend of the illiterate voter believed by the latter to be a friend of O'BRIEN or the Reform candidates, in reality a Tammany paid "heeler," would accost the poor fellow, and in the most fraternal manner imaginable, request to be shown his ticket.
3 August 1872, New York Herald, pg. 5, col. 3:
"And the fact is," said Allen, "when the 'heelers' find that Wood is around they keep very quiet."
23 October 1873, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, pg. 4:
There will be ward meetings and torch light processions and a great waste of power to get up campaign enthusiasm among the ward "heelers" who are loud in their expressions of dissatisfaction.
30 October 1873, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, pg. 4:
But Mr. Schroeder's condescension is greatly appreciated by the ward heelers of the party, and they think, to use their language, that "Mr. Schroeder is going to make a bully politician."