By Todd Stacy, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY – Some Roy Moore supporters aren’t letting December’s Senate special election loss go, and a few have focused their ire on U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt reports that a few Moore backers are floating a censure resolution within the Alabama Republican Party and an out-of-state billionaire is funding a robocall campaign attempting to stir up discontent against Alabama’s senior senator, all because Shelby said he wouldn’t vote for Moore in the special election after multiple allegations of sexual abuse and impropriety surfaced.
“Sen. Richard Shelby stabbed President Trump and conservatives in the back,” one of the calls reportedly says. “Tell Shelby you’ll never forget his disloyalty to President Trump and the Republican Party for his treasonous actions.”
Isenstadt reports the effort is being financed by Texas investor Christopher Ekstrom, who has funded attacks on other Republicans in the past.
Shelby spokesman Blair Taylor said it was “unfortunate to hear that instead of unifying the party ahead of its important 2018 election cycle, people within the Alabama GOP are making a shortsighted attempt to divide the party over Sen. Shelby’s noble stance,”
Those within Alabama’s business community and political establishment are not very impressed with the attacks and are coming to Shelby’s defense. William Canary, CEO of the Business Council of Alabama said Shelby is to be commended for his “principled stand.”
“I would publicly urge the Alabama Republican Party, if they’re going to adopt any resolution, to adopt one that commends Sen. Shelby for his service to the state,” Canary said.
Canary connected Shelby’s stance to Alabama’s recent success landing the coveted F-35 mission in Montgomery and winning the $1.6 billion, 4,000-job Mazda-Toyota project in North Alabama.
“Without [Shelby’s] principled stand, Roy Moore gets elected and those jobs would be going to North Carolina.”
Several Republican elected officials and political operatives from Alabama told the Alabama Daily News the robocall campaign and censure effort weren’t serious and would ultimately prove unsuccessful.
“It’s a small beer,” said David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant.
“Richard Shelby is the Bantam Rooster of Alabama politics and it would take a lot more than out-of-state robocalls to dent his reputation, much less worry him.”
Though most won’t say so on the record as the dust of the special election is still settling (and 2018 qualifying remains open in Alabama), many Republican officials and strategists are grateful to Shelby for the role he played in ensuring Alabama did not elect Moore.
Nationally, the 2018 midterm elections are already seeming like an uphill battle for the GOP. The prospect of weakening or even losing their majorities in the House and Senate has become very real. Many Republicans on the ballot in 2018 and the strategists running their campaigns are relieved to be spared the additional challenge of campaign ads tying them to an accused child molester.
The problem is more complicated for Alabama politicians on the ballot in 2018. No one really wants to alienate Moore’s core base of supporters, especially while qualifying remains open, though analysis offered earlier this week showed that recent polling and Alabama electoral history might not favor a Moore run for governor in 2018.
That’s why Shelby was so uniquely positioned to take the stand he did. Not only is he the state’s senior statesman who can withstand minor political skirmishes, having won reelection in 2016, he is only one year into another six year term in the U.S. Senate. The next time Shelby would appear on the ballot is 2022.
This effort to censure Shelby isn’t likely to go anywhere. However, it will be interesting to see if and how the Alabama Republican Party responds.