Shelby won’t run for reelection

Greg Nash

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said on Monday that he would not run for reelection in 2022.

“Today I announce that I will not seek a seventh term in the United State Senate in 2022. For everything, there is a season,” 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,” the 86-year-old senator added.

Shelby’s announcement follows months of speculation that he was eyeing retirement, including The Associated Press reporting on Friday that he had indicated that he would not run again. 

Shelby was first elected to the House in 1978 as a Democrat and won election to the Senate for the first time in 1986. Shelby then switched parties to become a Republican in 1994.

Shelby is currently fourth in Senate seniority, underscoring his long tenure. And during his time in the Senate he’s helmed a slew of powerful committees, including the Rules and Intelligence panels.

He’s currently the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, a post that allows him to direct funding back to his home state. Shelby was the chairman of the committee from April 2018 until last week, when Democrats formally took over the committee gavels after winning the majority last month.

His spot atop the Appropriations Committee put him in the middle of several government funding fights during former President Trump’s administration, including having to navigate thorny standoffs over the former president’s U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“I have been fortunate to serve in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Alabamian. … In these positions of leadership, I have strived to influence legislation that will have a lasting impact  creating the conditions for growth and opportunity,” Shelby said in his statement on Monday.

Shelby is the latest GOP senator to announce they will not run for reelection. Republicans will be defending 20 Senate seats in 2022 compared to the Democrats’ 14.

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have previously said they would retire at the end of their current term. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has previously said he wouldn’t run for reelection and Republicans are closely watching to see if other members will decide again running in 2022.

Shelby was a reliable Trump vote in the Senate, but also tried to steer last year’s Alabama Senate race. He supported former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s unsuccessful comeback bid, including disclosing to The Hill that he had talked about the former GOP senator with Trump. He also publicly broke with Republican Roy Moore in 2017, leading the failed candidate to blame Shelby for his loss against then-Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

Shelby’s decision will open up a power vacuum within Alabama politics, where he’s loomed as a political giant for decades. The seat is reliably Republican, but it could set up a crowded fight as the party tries to find its post-Trump footing.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) is viewed as a potential candidate. But Brooks has drawn backlash over his support for trying to overturn the results of the presidential election and his remarks at a rally on Jan. 6 shortly before rioters breached the U.S. Capitol.

“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he said at the event.

Brooks, in a subsequent statement, condemned the violence at the Capitol.

Other potential contenders include Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R), Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R) and GOP Reps. Gary Palmer and Robert Aderholt.

Sources told The Hill late last year that Shelby was interested in having Katie Britt, his former chief of staff, succeed him.

Updated at 12:40 p.m.

Tags 2022 Alabama doug jones Gary Palmer Jeff Sessions Mo Brooks Pat Toomey reelection Richard Burr Richard Shelby Rob Portman Robert Aderholt Roy Moore
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