Shelby announces retirement, opening Senate seat in Alabama

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Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced Monday that he won’t seek reelection to a seventh term after more than four decades in Congress.

Shelby, who chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee until Democrats won control of the chamber last month, has long been seen as likely to retire in 2022. The 86-year-old Republican is the fourth most senior member of the upper chamber and the longest-serving senator from Alabama. He has chaired several committees over the course of his career, including the powerful Appropriations Committee, where he’s still the top Republican, and the Banking Committee, of which he’s the longest-serving member.

“Serving in the U.S. Senate has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Shelby said in a statement. “I have done my best to address challenges and find ways to improve the day-to-day lives of all Americans.“

The Alabama Republican — known for his folksy demeanor and proclivity for meandering conversations with reporters in the hallways of the Capitol building — has helped steer billions of dollars in resources to his home state, including more than $1 billion for a new FBI headquarters and a U.S. Space Command headquarters in Huntsville, in addition to billions of dollars for the state’s ports and harbors.

In a statement, Shelby said he has “focused on the economic challenges of Alabamians, increasing access to education and promoting facilities to improve the quality of schools. I have worked to enhance Alabama’s role in space exploration and the security of our nation. Further, I have supported the utilization of Alabama’s greatest resources, including its unparalleled river system and the Port of Mobile.“

First elected in 1986 as a Democrat, Shelby became a Republican immediately following the GOP’s sweep in the 1994 midterm elections. His retirement will open a Senate seat in a safely Republican state where now-GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville just ousted a Democratic incumbent, Doug Jones, by more than 20 percentage points last November.

Rep. Mo Brooks, who lost in the primary in the 2017 special election, is considered likely to run again. Other potential candidates include Katie Boyd Britt, a former chief of staff to Shelby who leads the business lobby in the state, Secretary of State John Merrill, who dropped out of the 2020 race, and Rep. Gary Palmer, who contemplated running last cycle but passed.

Another possible hopeful is Lynda Blanchard, a business executive and President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia.

Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.

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