Special to the
Opelika Observer

Lee County residents are getting a close look at one of Sen. Richard Shelby’s challengers in the March 1 Republican Primary.  Jonathan McConnell, a former Marine and young businessman from Mobile and now Birmingham, announced his candidacy for Senate Nov. 6, 2015.  Cheering him on were his aunt Libba Herring of Opelika, his uncle Dr. Ron Herring, cousin Dr. Rusty Herring, and his former OHS and Auburn football player cousin Will Herring. Add to them his aunt and uncle “by marriage”, Dr. Rod and Karen Herring, and McConnell quickly picked up some loud cheerleaders for his challenge to Sen. Richard Shelby.
The Herrings organized the first local meet-the-candidate event at the Auburn University Club in December.  Quickly many Republican leaders joined in hosting the event, as well as local residents who were friends of McConnell when he attended Auburn University. He had organized a successful run for SGA president when he was a student at Auburn, and many of those former supporters were ready for a younger Senator to represent Alabama.  “Thirty seven years is way too long for anyone to stay in Washington,” one supporter said. “When 83 year old Sen. Shelby manages to stock up an $18 million campaign chest over all those years, I know he is representing those donor interests more than my interests.”
McConnell’s uncle, Dr. Ron Herring, described him as an amazing member of their family. After graduating from Auburn, McConnell served two tours in Iraq, and then studied law at the University of Alabama.  When Somali pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama, the ship in the movie Captain Phillips, McConnell realized no one was protecting the shipping lanes, did some legal research, and before age 30, owned an international maritime security company. McConnell knew the best people to protect the shipping lanes were the Marines he had fought with, so he decided to hire them. As the company grew, he added more Marines, and more than 100 Marines he served with in Iraq have endorsed his Senate candidacy.
In the meantime, McConnell began to feel the same frustration many Alabamians have felt over the inaction in the Republican party in stopping the Obama agenda. The first question people ask him when he states he is challenging Sen. Richard Shelby involves Mitch McConnell- “are you related to Mitch McConnell?”  Jonathan McConnell is not related, and answers, “Unlike Sen. Shelby, when I am elected to the Senate, my first vote will be for a conservative alternative to Sen. Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader.” McConnell strongly believes that Sen. Shelby’s actions in the Senate, beginning “back when Shelby was a Democrat and fought with Ted Kennedy against Ronald Reagan and voted against Judge Bork” have been “causal to the long path that put our country in the weakened shape we now see it.”  Adding Sen. Shelby’s support of the President Clinton’s gun control “Crime Bill” which banned semi-automatic shotguns and rifles back in the 90s, McConnell believes his conservative Republican values will be a fresh alternative to the mixed voting record Senator Shelby has achieved.
For additional information contact Liz BeShears, director of communications for the McConnell campaign at (256) 527-8133 or liz@mcconnell2016.com.