There is nothing quite like serving in the United States Senate. One could argue those seats comprise the 100 best jobs in the world.
The six-year terms allow for a more methodical approach to fundraising and campaigning, while the heightened level of influence in the deliberative body of the greatest nation in the world carries quite an allure.
With the venerable statesman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) announcing his retirement at the conclusion of this term, one of those 100 seats will be open, and it will be contested right here in Alabama.
There is no shortage of those aspiring – both publicly and in private – to fill the legend’s seat. In an effort to measure potential candidacies, Yellowhammer News has consulted with its oddsmakers to handicap the likelihood of various individuals qualifying to run for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate in 2022.
These are not odds to win the seat or the nomination. These odds merely represent the market’s assessment of the likelihood an individual will submit the necessary paperwork with the Alabama Republican Party to qualify as a candidate.
In addition, our oddsmakers have segmented the list into several different groupings which reflect their collective chances of running.
Here’s how the board currently looks:
Gimme the pen and paperwork
Mo Brooks at 2:9 – The favorite … to run. Brooks would seem to be at the peak of his powers among the state’s voters. The question is has he possibly peaked too early or will he hit his apex mountain in June 2022?
Katie Boyd Britt at 2:1 – This tenacious newcomer to Alabama politics may appeal to a segment of the electorate seeking a fresh name and face to take on the aging Biden/Pelosi/Schumer triumvirate in Washington, D.C.
John Merrill at 4:1 – Here’s the rub: This man has been preparing for this election since before he became SGA president at the University of Alabama. Merrill has shown a deft touch while handling public policy issues. He ran briefly for the Senate in 2020, although that campaign was a bit more touch and go than the all-out run to replace his fellow Tuscaloosa resident. A relentless campaigner, Merrill has been known to give out his cell phone to thousands of Alabamians, both friend and foe, to help solve problems. That type of hands-on approach would serve the public well.
Lynda Blanchard at 4:1 – Blanchard served as ambassador to Slovenia under President Donald Trump. Now, this Auburn University graduate sets her sights on a run for the Senate as a likely self-funder and relative unknown.
“This would be an interesting opportunity”
Jim Zeigler at 6:1 – He wrote the book on how to effectively harness the feelings of Alabama’s citizens and turn that into a grassroots campaign. Zeigler will need such a structure if he qualifies to run for the Senate.
Martha Roby at 8:1 – During her time representing Alabama’s southeastern corner in Congress, Roby was particularly adept at attending to the needs of her district while also navigating the treacherous halls of power to the benefit of her stature in a chamber of 435 people.
Jessica Taylor at 10:1 – Even though she just missed making the runoff for the second congressional district seat in 2020, Taylor launched onto the scene like a Roman candle during her first-ever race for political office. She recently formed a political action committee to support conservative candidates around the country.
Gary Palmer at 14:1 – Palmer is a conservative stalwart who has a knack for bridging the gap between Alabama’s business community and rank-and-file voters. A year ago, he would have had higher odds, but Brooks’ ascension has created an interesting dynamic for Palmer.
Moderate value plays
Del Marsh at 18:1 – At these odds, it may be a little bit of a stretch to label Marsh a value play, but he could also turn into a guy we look back at near the end of the year and wonder why his odds were so low. Maybe he passes his comprehensive gaming legislation, feels confident broadband expansion is finally funded and sees some missing elements in the field of candidates. Expect it when you least expect it with Marsh.
Barry Moore at 20:1 – Moore will be asked by people to run. Does he want to give up a seat for which he fought so long and hard? We feel confident his wife Heather Moore is the only other person who might have the answer.
Rick Burgess at 25:1 – He is the candidate we would most like to employ a camera documenting his every move on the campaign trail. The candor, political naivety, and, of course, the jokes would be must-see TV. And he would be a really good candidate.
Robert Aderholt at 33:1 – One could easily envision Aderholt in the Senate, but there’s something about his congressional seat in North Alabama which seems to match him so well. But he had enough “never say never” and “I don’t have current plans” to run language in his statement to The Hill to keep him out of the longshot odds category.
Bill Poole at 35:1 – Poole hails from the same hometown as Shelby, and he is widely regarded as one of the most gifted legislators. His trajectory continues upward.
Jo Bonner at 40:1 – Bonner exudes statesman qualities, in his own right. He has been as active on Alabama’s pressing issues as possibly any chief of staff to the governor, ever. In a more normal election cycle, Bonner’s odds to run would be higher.
Trip Pittman at 42:1 – The businessman and former state senator from Baldwin County would single-handedly elevate the discussion of issues in any campaign he chose to enter. His industry is on quite a run, one he probably would not want to interrupt with a campaign, so his odds are likely capped.
Bradley Byrne at 45:1 – The Mobile attorney and former first district congressman recently rejoined the firm Adams & Reese. Yet, the siren call of one of the world’s 100 best jobs can be difficult to ignore.
Jeff Coleman at 50:1 – The Wiregrass mover lost his bid for Congress last summer when an out-of-state group spent $900,000 against him. After an experience like that, people usually react one of two ways: never do that again or take one more shot to make it right. TBD on Coleman.
Don’t forget about these guys
Clay Scofield at 55:1 – Scofield was recently tapped as majority leader in the Alabama Senate. He is still young with plenty out ahead of him, but the man is a pure political animal.
Steve Marshall at 60:1 – Alabama’s attorney general has made quite a statement in recent years fighting for Alabama and its values in the nation’s court system.
Cliff Sims at 62:1 — Entrepreneur, White House official, deputy director of national intelligence, musician and now dad. Sims would bring an unmatched diversity of experience to the race. If nothing else, everyone would know he was running.
High value plays
Will Ainsworth at 80:1 — If we had a dollar for each of the people who are going to tell Ainsworth he should run, we could retire. However, he will most likely stick to his plan of ascending to the pinnacle of elected office in state government. Probably.
Twinkle Cavanaugh at 80:1 — Being only a few months removed from an election where she garnered more votes than any non-presidential candidate in Alabama history means Cavanaugh has options.
Luther Strange at 85:1 — The former senator may long to run a normal campaign, against (relatively) normal opponents in a normal election cycle.
Robert Bentley at 100:1 – As a practicing dermatologist, Bentley has received his COVID-19 vaccination. Next stop, Chitlin Festival?
Rusty Glover at 100:1 – Glover is a well-liked former state senator from Mobile County.
Mike Rogers at 100:1 – His stint on House Armed Services continues to provide value to Alabama year after year.
Matt Gaetz at 200:1 – There is no residency requirement to run for the U.S. Senate.
Marjorie Taylor Greene at 200:1 – See above.
Gene Chizik at 200:1 – The University of Alabama just completed the greatest season in college football history amidst the greatest run of seasons in college football history while coached by the greatest college football coach in history. What if Auburn controlled both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats?
Billy Canary 1000:1 – Canary once worked in the White House. The specter of two one-time Business Council of Alabama presidents squaring off for a Senate seat would unleash uncontrollable euphoria at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia