Senator Who Switched Parties in 1994 Is Retiring

Richard Shelby is Alabama's longest-serving senator
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2021 12:11 PM CST
Alabama's Longest-Serving Senator Is Retiring
In this 2005 photo, Sen. Richard Shelby speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the Senate's fourth most senior member, announced Monday that he will not seek a seventh term in office in 2022. A titan of Alabama politics, the 86-year-old politician has spent 42 years in Washington, serving first in the House and then the Senate. His stepping down will leave a power void for the region and will set off a free-for-all primary, the AP reports. "For everything, there is a season,” Shelby said. "I am grateful to the people of Alabama who have put their trust in me for more than 40 years. I have been fortunate to serve in the US Senate longer than any other Alabamian."

Shelby was elected to the Senate in 1986 as a conservative Democrat during the party’s waning days of power in the Deep South, but he switched to the GOP in 1994. He’s spent the past two years as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, before Democrats gained control of the chamber. All along, he has used his influence to benefit the state’s interests, particularly ports and military manufacturers. He played a key role in bringing an FBI campus and the newly announced Space Command to Huntsville. The New York Times notes that Shelby is the fourth Republican senator, after Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, to announce that they will not seek re-election in 2022. (The Toomey race just got a high-profile entrant.)

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