Alabama is one of the reddest states in the union, so whichever Republican emerges from the primary campaign to replace retiring Senator Richard Shelby will be the odds-on favorite to win in November 2022.
Naturally, the potential field of candidates is large. The state elected a political newcomer in 2020 — former college football coach Tommy Tuberville — so holding statewide office is not the advantage it used to be. But some politicians in Alabama are better known than others, which will definitely be a plus at the beginning of the race.
Here are 4 potential candidates as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Monday he was mulling a run and would make a decision in early April.
“The person that replaces Richard Shelby needs to be someone who is a proven, effective, conservative leader,” Merrill said. “That’s the example that Sen. Shelby set for us.”
Merrill said he was reaching out to supporters to gauge the potential for a run. Merrill, secretary of state since 2015, mounted a Senate campaign in 2019 for the seat now held by Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville. He dropped out in December of that year, a few weeks after former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions entered the primary.
You may recall Sessions finished first in the primary with 33 percent of the vote to Tuberville’s 31 percent. But Donald Trump, who had never forgiven Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia collusion case, mounted a furious revenge campaign, backing Tuberville in the runoff election.
Sessions didn’t even get 40 percent of the vote and Tuberville went on to win the general election, ousting Democrat Doug Jones.
Jones will not be a candidate this time around. He issued a statement praising Shelby. “I always appreciated his counsel and friendship (and an occasional after-hours bourbon), which he shared so generously during my tenure,” the statement said. “We wish him all the best in his retirement. Simple thanks is not enough to express our appreciation for his tireless work on behalf of Alabama.”
Easily the most interesting candidate in the race would be Rep. Mo Brooks, who is keeping his options open for the time being.
Brooks drew national attention for speaking at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, declaring that it was the day “American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Attendees of the rally later rioted at the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in at least five deaths, including one Alabamian. Brooks condemned the violence later but falsely attempted to blame it on Antifa.
“Quite frankly, the last 3 months of scurrilous & palpable false attacks on me by Socialist Democrats & their Fake News Media allies have been a wonderful blessing because they have sent my state-wide name I.D. and Republican Primary support through the roof,” Brooks said in a statement. His office declined to say when Brooks might make a decision.
Brooks will no doubt seem extreme in the stuffy offices of the New York Times and Washington Post. But he’s fine with Alabamans and he’s right — all the negative publicity he’s been getting from the liberal press makes him the odds-on favorite to win.
Shelby’s former chief of staff, Katie Boyd Britt, may also declare her candidacy. Britt is little known outside of business circles in the state, having been president of the Business Council of Alabama. But she has the benefit of having worked off and on for Shelby since 2004 and may get the retiring senator’s endorsement.
Lastly, Rep. Gary Palmer, who decided against a run in 2020 despite support from the conservative Club for Growth, may enter the race. If he does, he may attract a lot of support from center-right groups who see Rep. Brooks as a problem.