US Senator Richard Shelby Spends Big in Alabama Primary

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What does $5 buy you in Chilton County? All the chili you could eat, line dancing, and door prizes galore. Oh, and a chance to meet Senator Richard Shelby, who spent a recent Saturday campaigning at the Chilton County Chili Cookoff.

Shelby is 81 years old. And he wants people to know that he still has a sharp memory. He hasn’t campaigned this aggressively since he first ran as a Democrat for this Senate seat back in 1986.

Anne Turner is a Republican voter who says Shelby’s campaign has been calling her a lot. Four times in a day, to be exact. 

Senator Richard Shelby greets supporters in Chilton County.
Gigi Douban,WBHM

Senator Richard Shelby greets supporters in Chilton County.

Since January 1st, Shelby has spent more than $5 million on his campaign, much of that going toward ads. That’s double what he spent on his last bid in 2010 and more than any other Senate candidate this year, according to The Cook Political Report.

One ad says this: When the big Wall Street banks came with their hand out, Shelby said ‘No way.” Stood firm.”

Shelby chairs the Senate Banking Committee. And most of his campaign cash comes from banks, including some of the ones he slams in his ads.  

Larry Powell, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says when you’re on the banking committee, banks give you money. “And if you’re a powerful member of the banking committee, they give you lots of money,” he says.

Despite voting against the bailout, Shelby says he’s still on the industry’s good side.

“Some of them like some of my views,” he says. “That is, is don’t over regulate them.”

As far as his challengers, Shelby wouldn’t so much as acknowledge them in an interview. His ads tell a different story.

Take the ads for “Conman Jon McConnell.” The ad goes on to say, “Alabama just can’t trust him.”

That refers to Shelby’s biggest threat in the Republican primary, 33-year-old former Marine Corps Captain Jonathan McConnell. Up until recently, McConnell had been nearly unknown in Alabama. But McConnell says thanks to Shelby’s attack ads, his name recognition is rising.


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