That includes Roby’s colleague in the delegation, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby. He’s warding off four primary challengers, including former Marine Capt. Jonathan McConnell, whose ads have attacked Shelby on national security. After a 2014 cycle that featured several Senate incumbents in serious primaries, the five-term senator is one of the few incumbents forced to spend serious money so far.
Roby remains solidly favored to prevail. But to conservatives, the 2nd District, which Mitt Romney won with 63 percent of the vote in 2012, offers a ripe opportunity to pad their ranks. The three-term incumbent is known as one of the more moderate members of Alabama's GOP delegation, and since the race falls on the same day as the presidential primary, strong turnout by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz supporters could embolden her challenger.
So far, Roby, who was first elected in the Republican wave of 2010, holds a significant cash edge after bringing in $310,000 in the fourth quarter and ending the year with $884,000. Gerritson, whose report is not yet public, raised about $105,000 since announcing her candidacy on Oct. 1 and had only about $31,000 in the bank at the end of the year, according to her campaign.
“It’s not all about the money,” Gerritson said in an interview, pointing to Dave Brat’s historic defeat in 2014 of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia. “I know that we will be outspent, probably 20-to-1.”
Gerritson, the leader of the Wetumpka Tea Party, first made headlines in 2013 when she delivered emotional testimony before Congress about her group’s apparent targeting by the Internal Revenue Service. In addition to the Eagle Forum, Gerritson has won backing from conservative groups including the Madison Project and the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund super PAC.
Roby has been counterpunching with endorsements of her own. One of Alabama’s oldest tea-party groups, the Alabama Patriots Tea Party, is backing her bid. Earlier this month, Sen. Jeff Sessions, a popular conservative in Alabama, announced he’s supporting her. And on Tuesday, the Susan B. Anthony List, which backs female candidates opposed to abortion, threw its support to Roby.
Still, Roby has taken heat from her right flank, earning a 56 percent lifetime rating from the Club for Growth and a 54 percent lifetime rating from Heritage Action for America.
And in December, an outside group, the American Jobs Alliance, aired radio ads that slammed her vote last summer to support the fast-track trade bill.
In an interview, Roby defended her record, touting her work on local priorities that some conservative groups opposed, such as the farm bill in 2014.
“Will someone make scorecards an issue in this campaign?” Roby said. “Of course they will. But every time they do, they will actually be demonstrating, vote by vote, how I put Alabama ahead of Washington politics.”