Predictions made for Shelby's future
Published 7:51 am Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Last week's column, which chronicled the prowess of our Senior Senator Richard Shelby and his success at garnering extra federal funds for his pet Alabama projects, evoked numerous comments and inquiries from many of you. Some of you were curious whether Shelby would choose to retire when his term ends in 2010 because he is no longer Chairman of Senate Appropriations and his power has been greatly diminished since the Democrats became the majority party in the Senate as well as the House last year. My belief is that indeed Shelby's power has been deterred but hope springs eternal in politicians. They usually see the glass half full rather than half empty.
With the Democratic majority being razor thin, Shelby probably believes that once the Iraq occupation is over and Bush is out of the picture the Republicans will make some incremental gains and will be back in the majority and he will again be Chairman. In the meantime Shelby is still the ranking minority Senator on Appropriations and he will not be completely shut out of the pork barrel process. Therefore, as to Shelby's possible retirement my belief is don't count on it.
I fully expect and would bet that Shelby runs for reelection to a fifth six-year term in 2010. He will be 75 that year, which is young by U.S. Senate standards. He is healthy, having survived prostate cancer 10 years ago. The proof in the pudding is that Shelby would not be making a back breaking schedule of visiting every county in Alabama each year if he were not running.
Shelby's reputation as the King of Pork in Washington highlights the difference in our two U.S. Senators. Shelby is the ultimate pragmatist and compromiser and believes in bringing home the bacon while our junior Senator, Jeff Sessions, is the ultimate straight and narrow, indelible, social, and fiscal conservative ideologue.
Sessions is more interested in who sits on the Supreme Court and that they are purist on abortion or other social issues. He is at the center of a core of rightwing Republican Senators who are referred to as gadflies. They are considered lightweights and not especially effective at fixing potholes or building bridges, nor do they espouse that philosophy.
The difference between Shelby and Sessions may stem from the fact that Sessions has an undaunted Republican pedigree that demands strict adherence to the social and fiscal right. He is a lifelong Republican, whereas Shelby cut his teeth as a Democrat.
Sessions does not appear to be attracting strong opposition for his reelection contest next year. It would be tough for a Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. We are one of the most ardent Republican states in America when it comes to federal elections. Next year is a Presidential year and Alabamians are more likely to vote for a GOP candidate like John McCain than a Democrat named Hillary Clinton, which gives Sessions an additional coattail advantage.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist whose column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature and may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.