The Republican side of Alabama’s U.S. Senate race features two candidates with local ties among those running to unseat long-serving incumbent Richard Shelby.
In the March 1 primary, the 81-year-old will face challenges from Mobile native Jonathan McConnell and Daphne resident Marcus Bowman, among others, including Shadrack McGill and John Martin.
Perhaps the fiercest fight has been between Shelby and Davidson High School graduate McConnell, with both sides airing attack ads through television and social media. Most recently, Shelby attacked McConnell’s stance on immigration reform, while McConnell hammered Shelby on Supreme Court confirmations.
On immigration, McConnell said he supports building a wall along the Mexican border and guarding it with proper control. While expensive, he said, the money could be found for the wall by cutting foreign aid to certain countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This is a national security issue,” McConnell said of immigration reform.
In addition to the wall, McConnell said he’s in favor of deportation, but doesn’t think the government would be able to deport every individual living in the country illegally.
“I don’t think the federal government does anything well,” he said.
As a remedy, McConnell said he would work to disincentivize businesses from employing undocumented workers. He would also work to mandate e-verify nationwide and stiffen the penalties for those who violate it.
“If you tax businesses so heavily for hiring cheap labor you take away the incentive,” he said.
Shelby’s campaign did not return an email last week asking for comment on this story, but if there is anything 28 years in the Senate have provided, it’s friends in high places. According to his most recent campaign finance report, Shelby has more than $12.1 million in cash on hand. He’s spent a little more than $5 million on the campaign since Jan. 1.
In an attack on Shelby, the McConnell campaign stated that the senator’s past support of certain Supreme Court nominees led to recent unfavorable rulings for Republicans. McConnell cited Shelby’s opposition of President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 nomination of Robert Bork, which later led to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s confirmation. By blocking Bork, whom McConnell compared to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Shelby hurt conservatives, he said. Shelby was a Democrat at the time.
As for Scalia’s replacement on the bench, McConnell believes it should be the next president’s duty to name a nominee.
McConnell also said he supports term limits and hopes to expand them nationwide.
Bowman said he decided to stick his neck out after noticing frustrations building on social media.
“I thought it was possible for grassroots campaigns to be successful,” he said. “There was definitely an opening for a candidate like me.”
While Bowman supports a border wall, he said he would also propose legislation to look at available technology to secure the border without making a wall necessary.
“I’m a hardliner,” he said. “I don’t think there should be any shortcuts for anyone.”
Bowman said he supports deporting anyone found without the right paperwork, but added he’d like to allow them back in if they apply the right way and go through the proper process.
Bowman said he believes President Barack Obama has an obligation to nominate a candidate to replace Scalia and would reserve judgment until the nomination is made.
He said Shelby has been a disappointment because he hasn’t worked hard enough to have “adult conversations” on the issues and hasn’t found solutions.
Bowman has been an Uber driver since August, but said he doesn’t use the ride-hailing application to campaign. He said he will only talk politics if a customer brings it up.
Ron Crumpton faces Charles Nana for the Democratic nomination.
FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR REPUBLICAN