Shelby’s departure will likely spark Republican primary battle to be his successor
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Saying that “for everything there is a season,” Alabama Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2022, bringing to a close a political career that has made him that longest-serving senator in his state’s history and triggering what is likely to be a pitched battle among Republicans to replace him.
“Serving in the U.S. Senate has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Shelby said in a statement. “Although I plan to retire, I am not leaving today. I have two good years remaining to continue my work in Washington. I have the vision and the energy to give it my all. “
Shelby, 86, was elected to the U.S. House in 1978 and to the Senate in 1986, serving at various times as the chair of the appropriations, banking, intelligence and rules committees.
He was a Democrat until switching parties in 1994, as Alabama was transitioning from being solidly Democrat to solidly Republican and the GOP won control of Congress.
He routinely won re-election by large margins, mostly recently a 28-point win in 2016.
While his decision to retire is unlikely to open up a pickup opportunity for Democrats in solidly red Alabama, it is expected to trigger a free-for-all among Republicans vying to succeed him.
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks from Huntsville and Secretary of State John Merrill have both indicated they are considering the race. Brooks ran unsuccessfully for the state’s other Senate seat in a special election in 2017; Merrill dropped out of the race for the same seat in 2020.
Other candidates being mentioned include U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer from Hoover; Katie Boyd Britt, a former Shelby aide who now runs the Business Council of Alabama; former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, who served a stormy tenure as attorney general in the Trump administration; and Bradley Byrne from Mobile, who gave up his U.S. House seat in 2020 to make an unsuccessful Senate run.
On key to the eventual make-up of the Senate field will be Governor Kay Ivey’s decision whether to seek another term as governor in 2022; if she doesn’t, some possible Senate candidates may opt for the governor’s race instead.