By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the Senate’s fourth most senior member and who chaired four major committees, announced Monday that he will not seek a seventh term in office in 2022.
A titan of Alabama politics, the 86-year-old Republican has spent more than 40 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 GOP primary for the seat at a time when the national Republican party is divided over direction.
“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 forty years. I have been fortunate to serve in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Alabamian.”
Shelby stressed that he will finish the two years remaining in his current term and remarked, “I have the vision and the energy to give it my all.”
The senator was first elected as a conservative Democrat during the party’s waning days of power in the Deep South. In the House of Representatives he belonged to a caucus of southern conservatives known as the boll weevils.
He was elected to the Senate in 1986 but switched to the GOP in 1994. He has 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.
“Few people have had a more consequential impact on our state than Senator Richard Shelby,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who added, “The people of Alabama owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Shelby served in the Senate longer than any Alabamian. During his time in the chamber he chaired four major committees: appropriations, rules, banking, and intelligence.
“Serving in the U.S. Senate has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” the senator said in his statement. “I have done my best to address challenges and find ways to improve the day-to-day lives of all Americans. I have also focused on the economic challenges of Alabamians, increasing access to education and promoting facilities to improve the quality of schools.”