Senator Shelby hits the ground running

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005

By By Steve Flowers
A loud message was sent quietly by our Senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby during the first part of the year. Shelby, who is currently 70 years old, appears to have plans to run for a fourth six-year term in 2010 at age 76.
Fresh from a landslide reelection victory last November, where he received 70% of the vote and was the largest vote getter on the ballot, he hit the ground running. In each of Shelby's prior eighteen years in the Senate he has made a visit to all 67 counties in Alabama and he began his nineteenth year the same way he did his first. However, he is more experienced and polished than he was in 1987, that is not to say that he was not skilled at politics then. Shelby was more skilled at the art of politics in 1987 than any politician in Alabama at that time and he is in a league of his own now. He is head and shoulders above any other Alabama politician. In fact it would be like comparing the New York Yankees to the Montgomery Biscuits to compare Senator Richard Shelby to anybody in Alabama who might want to be second.
The only difference in Shelby's nineteenth visit to every county in Alabama and his first visit is the enormous amount of power and influence he has amassed in Washington. Senator Shelby now comes to every county bearing gifts and grants. He either leaves them with an airport, a highway, a library, a school, or a grant for a much needed local program.
Shelby has more power in Washington than our junior Senator Jeff Sessions and all seven of our Congressmen put together. Most Senators of Shelby's stature who had just come off of big victories and with six years to campaign would not have taken on a grueling schedule of visiting four to five counties per day listening to constituent problems and handling lost Social Security checks. Instead, most of them were on junkets to paradise spots around the world, inspecting out of the way military bases in posh settings like France, the Caribbean, or Aruba while Shelby was listening to complaints regarding sewer problems in rural Alabama.
Shelby looks trim, healthy, and vigorous. He shows no signs of aging, and remembers tidbits of information about people that most fifty year olds would have long forgotten. He greets about half the people he sees at his town hall meetings by name and will refer back to a visit and conversation they had ten years earlier. Our senior Senator appears to be in great spirits and is enjoying the fruits of his labor. He is thriving on the power he has earned through his seniority.
There is no truer adage that your actions speak louder than words. It looks obvious to me that Richard Shelby plans to run again in 2010. He will join the elite circle of Lister Hill and John Sparkman in Alabama political lore for recognition as a power of influence for Alabama. At the end of his term, at age 76, Shelby will still be young by Senate standards. Just look at Harry Byrd and Strom Thurmond. With age comes seniority and seniority translates into power and prestige in Washington. If you love politics, you would have to love being a powerful U.S. Senator. It would be like play. No retirement beach house, mountain retreat, golf course, or other paradise could bring the joy and zest for life of being one of the ten cardinals out of 100 in the most exclusive political club in the world. That is what makes someone stay there for life.
The late, great, 3rd District of Alabama Congressman, George Andrews, who spent a lifetime in the U.S. House, when asked where he was going to retire once he reached his 70's said, "I ain't. I'm either going to leave here in a pine box or by the ballot box."
Ambitious politicians, who were thinking that they might have an opportunity at a Senate seat in 2010, might want to put their aspirations on hold. Richard Shelby looks like he enjoys it and he looks pretty young at age 70. By Strom Thurmond standards Shelby could be in his Senate seat a good twenty more years and that would be great for Alabama.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. His column appears weekly. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.uss weekly.

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