AL Senate Race: Did Richard Shelby Jeopardize His Standing in the GOP With a Write-in Vote?

Richard Shelby on MSNBC
MSNBC Screen Shot

Earlier this week, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) revealed he did not vote for his party’s nominee, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, in the special election for U.S. Senate scheduled to take place on December 12.

“No, no, no, I voted absentee,” Shelby said to reporters according to The Hill. “I didn’t vote for him. I voted for a distinguished Republican write-in.”

On Tuesday, Moore’s Democratic opponent, former Clinton U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, used Shelby’s decision to make it known how he voted as campaign fodder. Jones mentioned it at a campaign stop in Northport, AL in Shelby’s home county of Tuscaloosa, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Jones later tweeted a link to the Hill story as well.

Last week, Jones launched a 30-second TV spot that has aired throughout Alabama touting Shelby’s position on Roy Moore.

The maneuvering by Alabama’s senior senator on Roy Moore has raised questions about his standing with the Alabama Republican Party and how that could impact his ability to run on the GOP ticket in the future.

According to a statement provided to Breitbart News from the Alabama Republican Party, the party rule governing support of candidates is as follows:

“Denying Ballot Access: This Committee reserves the right to deny ballot access to a candidate for public office if in a prior election that person was a Republican office holder and either publicly participated in the primary election of another political party or publicly supported a nominee of another political party. The provisions of this Rule shall apply for a period of six years after such person so participated. (This rule does not include all of the reasons for denying ballot access.)”

The statement, which quoted Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan, argued there are questions as to whether or not the rule applies to Shelby in this circumstance. Lathan described a “person’s personal vote” as “personal,” which she said was important to differentiate.

Lathan called Shelby “a very good and supportive friend to the Alabama Republican Party,” adding that he is “a staunch conservative on issues.” She noted how Shelby’s action might have been a problem if he had handled announcing who he voted for differently.

“If an elected official or candidate, for example, said publicly, ‘Please write in XYZ. Here is how you write in the name of XYZ,’ or champions this procedure, that could be a ballot access problem,” she said. “Another example may be if an elected official or a candidate publicly said, ‘I am voting for XYZ of another party and ask you to join me.’ That could be an issue when considering ballot access.”

As Chairwoman, Lathan would not have the final say. Should Shelby’s standing in the Alabama Republican Party be challenged for his write-in announcement, it would trigger a process, and members of the party would adjudicate the complaint.

Lathan explained there was no one-size-fits-all approach to these matters.

“Every case is different in our ballot access decisions. One size does not fit all as we carefully weigh each ballot challenge that comes before us with the utmost caution. We take ballot challenges very seriously. In all possible scenarios, we want the voters to decide who our nominees are. However, just as in any other organization, the ALGOP has rules that must be followed.”

Bill Armistead, who served as Alabama Republican Party chairman before Lathan and is now the chairman of Moore’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, explained this wasn’t unprecedented behavior from Shelby.

“Richard Shelby has always been a bit of a maverick as far as being an Alabama Republican Senator,” Armistead said in an interview with Breitbart News. “He marches to his own beat and doesn’t always represent the conservative mainstream philosophy.”

Armistead was accurate in saying Shelby does not always toe the party line.

While Armistead was chairman of the state’s Republican Party, the party issued a statement opposing the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as Secretary of Defense. In the end, Shelby had decided to vote to confirm Hagel, which was not viewed favorably by the leadership of the state party at the time.

“He rebuked us – he rebuked the party for asking him to do that,” Armistead said. “So it doesn’t surprise me that Senator Shelby would once again get off the reservation and vote in line with Mitch McConnell and try to deny a seat to Roy Moore in the United States Senate.”

As to if whether or not the Republican Party should penalize Shelby for his write-in vote, Armistead said it depended on the definition of “public support,” which he said was “open for debate.”

“Either you are a Republican and you support the Republican nominee for United States Senate, or you are not,” Armistead added. “And the mere accusation of wrongdoing against a man that has had 30 to 40 years in the public arena without a hint of impropriety would not seem to justify the senior senator from Alabama making a spectacle of his vote, especially since he is going to be serving with him in the United States Senate.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) warned Huntsville radio WVNN’s Dale Jackson that Shelby’s vote for a write-in candidate was a vote for a Democratic majority in Congress. Brooks, who was a Moore opponent in the GOP primary and would later endorse Moore, said if Doug Jones emerges victorious on December 12, there was an 80-to-90 percent chance the Democrats would retake the House of Representatives next year.

“I have yet to meet a Republican who says that they’re going to do anything other than vote for Roy Moore,” Brooks said. “Now, having said that, I have heard of the comments by Richard Shelby, and they’re most disappointing to me that he would rather have Chuck Schumer in power in the United States Senate rather than Republicans in power. But that’s Richard Shelby’s viewpoint, and I most strongly disagree with it. But he has that right.”

“Any vote for someone other than Roy Moore is a vote to empower Chuck Schumer and help the Democrats take over the United States Senate and to kill the ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda of the Trump administration.”

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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