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Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby announced on Monday that he would not seek reelection to a seventh term in 2022.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“Thank you again for the honor you have given me – the honor to serve the people of Alabama in Congress for the last 42 years. I look forward to what is to come for our great state and our great nation,” said Shelby, 86, the ranking member on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
Shelby’s decision comes amid a number of Republican senators – including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania – that they would not run for reelection in 2022.
The upcoming elections in the Senate, which is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any deadlocks for Democrats, will be hotly contested as Democrats seek to expand their slim majority and Republicans who hope to flip the Senate back to their control.
The possibility that Shelby’s seat would be replaced by a Democrat is unlikely since Democrat Sen. Doug Jones was ousted in November by his Republican challenger, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
Jones defeated former Judge Roy Moore, who was dogged by allegations of sexual assault, in a special election in 2017 to become the first Democrat elected to a US Senate seat in Alabama since 1992.
When word first began percolating that Shelby might not seek reelection, the Birmingham Watch, a non-profit, non-partisan journalism initiative in Alabama, compiled a list of state politicians who might make a bid for his seat.
They include: Katie Boyd Britt, a former chief of staff for Shelby who heads up the Business Council of Alabama, John Merrill, Alabama’s secretary of state, Rep. Mo Brooks, a five-term congressman and supporter of former President Donald Trump, and Rep. Gary Palmer.
Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986 as a conservative Democrat but switched parties in 1994.
“I am grateful to the people of Alabama who have put their trust in me for more than forty years. I have been fortunate to serve in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Alabamian. During my time in the Senate, I have been given great opportunity, having chaired four committees: Appropriations, Rules, Banking, and Intelligence. In these positions of leadership, I have strived to influence legislation that will have a lasting impact – creating the conditions for growth and opportunity,” he said in the statement.
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