Alabama Senator Richard Shelby is resigning after serving in the nation’s top deliberative body since 1986, when he was elected as a Democrat. Shelby later switched to the GOP after the Republican Revolution of 1994 and has been serving our state as such since then, holding such important positions as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. With his resignation, there is an opening in an Alabama senate seat that has been occupied by the same person for over 35 years, and there will be an outpouring of money and effort into Alabama to try and win a seat crucial in a tightly divided senate chamber.
First comes the Republican primary. The GOP primary was once considered more important than the actual election, as Alabama had safely elected Republicans to statewide office for several election cycles. This drastically changed with the upset win of Doug Jones in the 2017 special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s seat. The Republican primary is certainly still extremely important, but Republicans have started to pay more attention to the very real threat of challengers to their left.
Perhaps the most well known of currently announced candidates is Representative Mo Brooks, who represents Alabama Congressional District 5, which includes Athens. Brooks has received criticism for his role in the Jan. 6 entry of the Capitol building by protestors, as he gave a speech immediately before said event. However, this doesn’t seem to be affecting his popularity, as he is polling at 55 percent among likely Republican voters, far ahead of any other candidate. After an unsuccessful run in the 2017 special election, the Brooks campaign is hoping that his endorsement by former President Donald Trump will boost his results statewide.
A surprisingly successful GOP contender has also jumped into the mix. Katie Britt, still relatively unknown in political circles, is Sen. Richard Shelby’s chief of staff (and has his endorsement) and former head of the Business Council of Alabama. She has made waves in recent weeks due to a massive surge in fundraising. While only polling at 12 percent among likely GOP voters, she has a key edge due to her massive monetary advantage. The Britt campaign has raised over $3.76 million, with $1.5 million of that being raised in the last quarter alone. Britt has been running ads on television and putting up billboards around Alabama with this money, and these advertisements could raise her profile statewide.
These two frontrunners recognize that it is a largely two- person race at this point, and ergo, have been attacking each other. “Mrs. Britt is just pandering to the voters, parroting back to the voters what the polling data says the voters want to hear. But there’s no truth or substance behind it,” Rep. Brooks said. On the other hand, Britt has criticized Brooks for voting against the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds our military, saying “[t]his is the latest example of why Washington is broken and why we don’t need ineffective, all-talk, do-nothing career politicians like my opponent in the U.S Senate.” As the election looms closer, attacks between candidates will only increase in strength and scope.
Two other Republican candidates, Jessica Taylor (a former congressional candidate) and Lynda Blanchard (the former United States ambassador to Slovenia), have announced their candidacy for senate, although they are both polling at 5 percent, and Michael Durant, a pilot in the U.S. Army and an author, has also announced his candidacy, but no polls have included him as of yet. With 23 percent of likely Republican voters undecided, the GOP primary is very much anyone’s game.
The Democratic primary is more desolate at this point. Only one candidate, Brandaun Dean, the former mayor of Brighton, has announced his candidacy. Former Sen. Doug Jones, whose dark horse candidacy provided Senate Democrats a badly needed seat, has said he will not be running for senate again. Some potential candidates on the democratic side include the current Minority Leader of the Alabama House of Representatives Anthony Daniels and state representative and chair of the Alabama Democratic Party Christopher J. England.
Inside Elections and The Cook Political Report have declared the 2022 Alabama Senate race to be solidly Republican, but with primaries heating up and money pouring into Alabama, only time can tell what will happen in this crucial election.