Republican Alabama Senator Richard Shelby is facing backlash over his refusal to support Roy Moore in last month’s special state election. Moore was defeated by Democratic candidate Doug Jones in one of the biggest upsets in recent years. Alabama hasn’t elected a Democrat to the senate since 1992. That Democrat, Shelby, switched parties two years later.
During an interview just before the election Shelby said, “I had to vote Republican, I wanted to vote Republican, and I understand where the president’s coming from, I understand that we would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate.” But, he went on to say, in the wake of so many allegations that have been made about Moore, he “just couldn’t vote for [Moore].”
Shelby said that wrote in the name of another “distinguished republican” instead. Moore wound up losing to Jones by less than 2%.
Moore supporters say those comments delivered the election to Jones, and now they want revenge. Moore backers have submitted a resolution to the Alabama Republican Party demanding that Shelby be censured. Shelby, “publicly encouraged Republicans and all voters to write in a candidate instead of voting for…Moore,” and his “public speech was then used by the Democrat Candidate in robocalls to sway voters to not vote for…Moore,” the resolution says.
A pro-Moore PAC, Courageous Conservatives, ran robocalls last month calling Shelby a traitor and demanded his resignation. “…Shelby stabbed President Trump and conservatives in the back. Tell Shelby you’ll never forget his disloyalty to President Trump and the Republican Party for his treasonous actions. Tell Shelby he’s betrayed his trust to Alabamians and he should resign his office. Call now.”
The censure is unlikely to be passed. Shelby, who is 83 years-old and was just elected to his sixth term last year, is believed to be in his last term in the Senate. He is also an iconic figure in Alabama politics. But the backlash does highlight what seems to be a growing divide between grassroots Republicans and establishment figures they see as insufficiently supportive of President Trump and his agenda.
A conservative former Alabama state senator, Scott Beason said Shelby legitimized write-in candidates in lieu of Moore, and that ultimately, that undermined Republican efforts in the race. “People are saying that anytime Republicans in Washington are a vote short, Shelby helped make that happen. Folks just think he did not have to do what he did,” Beason said.