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Outgoing Alabama senator says body ‘less collegial’ than it was 36 years ago

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Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has chosen not to seek a seventh term, saying the body was ‘less collegial’ than it was decades ago. 

‘It’s less collegial than when I first went to the Senate 36 years ago,’ the state’s longest-serving senator told The Associated Press on Wednesday. 

Shelby said that he had a ‘good run,’ but expressed concern about growing polarization in the Senate. 

The outgoing senator said that he always saw the value in trying to work across the political aisle, ‘especially in appropriations, because you can’t do it yourself.’

The 88-year-old said that he never thought the U.S. would see a day like the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

‘It was not a good day for America. I thought we would never see it,’ Shelby said.

He declined to assign blame for the violence. 

‘But, maybe we’ll learn something from that,’ he noted. ‘Learn not to ever permit that to happen again, not to create the conditions for that to happen.’

Shelby announced his retirement last year and will be succeeded by his former chief of staff Katie Britt, who he believes will be a ‘force.’ 

A lawyer and a former member of the Alabama Legislature, Shelby was first elected as a conservative Democrat to the House of Representatives in 1978.

The fourth-most senior member, he was elected to the Senate in 1986 but switched to the GOP in 1994.

Money for universities, the Interstate 22 highway connecting Memphis and Birmingham, dredging and other improvements for the ports in Mobile, and the development of the FBI second campus in Huntsville are a few of the projects that will be associated with Shelby’s legacy.

‘I’m grateful and fortunate that the people of Alabama sent me up here six terms to the Senate and four terms to the House,’ he said. ‘… We’ve tried to leave Alabama and the country better than it was.’

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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