Shelby's Conservative Credentials Get Pre-Primary Boost

New support comes after Shelby has blazed an expensive path he hopes will lead to victory over GOP primary opponents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama prepares to defend his conservative credentials against what could be one of the toughest primary challenges of his Senate career next Tuesday, a conservative national group has thrown its support to him.  

The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund – a political action committee that arrived on the scene in 2009 as the tea party movement was taking off – offered its last-minute stamp of approval on Thursday, opting against his chief rival, Marine veteran Jonathan McConnell, just five days before Alabama voters head to the polls. In a statement that praised Shelby's opposition to the 2008 Wall Street bailout and his efforts against illegal immigration, Jenny Beth Martin, the group’s chairman, said Shelby has “earned” another term.

Challenger Says Richard Shelby Attacks Show He's 'Worried'

Shelby's campaign put up a website accusing challenger McConnell of everything from being a “crony capitalist” to a “pro-amnesty liberal.” (Screengrab from

The top Republican challenger to Alabama Sen. Richard C. Shelby said Tuesday the fifth-term lawmaker is starting to show signs of concern, two weeks before the March 1 primary.  

Jonathan McConnell, a businessman and ex-Marine who is the leading pack of Republican trying to unseat Shelby, began to feel the wrath of the incumbent's $17 million campaign fund last week when he became the target of a blistering online effort.  

Could Trump, Cruz Victories Cause GOP Problems Down-Ballot?

Attendees cheer for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Tuesday as he gives his victory speech after winning the New Hampshire 2016 primary in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have demonstrated anew to conservatives how to take on — and defeat — the GOP establishment. If they’re not careful, Republicans might soon feel the consequences of their victories beyond the presidential race.  

The unprecedented early success of the Texas senator and billionaire businessman in Iowa and New Hampshire might spark a transformation in a year’s-worth of Republican House and Senate primaries, threatening to transform a sleepy slate of contests into ones that recall the pitched intra-party wars waged during the height of the tea party movement. The hope among conservative insurgents — and concern among the GOP powers-that-be — is Trump and Cruz serve as beacons to like-minded voters, donors and candidates, who can harness the energy and enthusiasm of the White House race into their down-ballot battles against incumbent GOP lawmakers.  

Presidential Primary Calendar Could Help Congressional Challengers

Facing primary foes the same day as the presidential nominating contest, Alabama's Shelby is spending money on re-election, just to be sure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In more than a dozen states, House and Senate primary elections will happen on the same ballot with the presidential race — timing that could pose a challenge for incumbent candidates in intra-party battles.  

Presidential candidates such as New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are hoping to lure new, anti-establishment voters to the polls, a change that would skew the kinds of voters candidates will face.  “The S.E.C. states,” said Midwest-based Republican consultant James Harris, using the nickname for the group of southern states that share the March 1 primary date, “will have an uptick in their normal turnout because of the presidential primaries.”  

Alabama's Richard Shelby Gets a Primary Challenge

Shelby has a massive war chest. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Alabama Sen. Richard C. Shelby may finally have some use for the $19 million in his campaign account .  

Filing just before the deadline, Iraq War veteran Jonathan McConnell announced on Friday that he would challenge the five-term Republican senator in a primary.  

Senators Confirm Re-Election Bids for 2016

Vitter has announced a bid for governor, leaving the future of his Senate seat in flux in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The 2016 cycle could feature the fewest open Senate seats in at least a decade.  

Of the 34 senators facing re-election next year, just one has announced retirement . A CQ Roll Call survey of the entire Senate class showed only one more senator publicly undecided about re-election, plus three additional senators considering bids for other offices. Two more Senate offices did not return requests for comment on re-election plans, though Democrats are near certain one of them — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will seek another term.