WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, 86, said on Monday he would not seek reelection for a seventh term in 2022, becoming the latest Republican senator to step down ahead of a midterm campaign that is likely to be spirited and expensive.
“I am grateful to the people of Alabama who have put their trust in me for more than forty years. I have been fortunate to serve in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Alabamian,” Shelby said in a statement.
The Senate is closely divided, with Democrats and Republicans each holding 50 seats and eager to seize decisive control in 2022. Republicans in the conservative state of Alabama are viewed as likely to find a successful candidate to replace Shelby, who last won re-election in 2016 with 64% of the vote.
Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986 as a Democrat before switching parties.
He has been a central figure in negotiations in recent years on funding government programs as a top senator on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Shelby also played important roles on banking industry legislation and, despite the popularity of former President Donald Trump in Alabama, sometimes broke with him, such as with his opposition to the president’s trade tariffs.
Republican senators Rob Portman, Pat Toomey and Richard Burr have also announced they will not seek reelection in 2022.
(Reporting by Makini Brice and Richard Cowan, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)