WASHINGTON — REPUBLICANS want Sen. Richard Shelby (D) of Alabama to switch parties, but a spokesman for the senator says he knows of no change in the offing.
``Republicans have talked to him and encouraged him to do this, as they have to other Southern Democrats,'' said Tom Young, Senator Shelby's chief of staff in an interview last week.
Speculation that Shelby might switch parties has dogged the conservative Democrat for years. In the past, he has brushed aside such suggestions.
``Personally, I think Senator Shelby is happy where he is at this point in his life,'' Young said.
Democrats control the Senate, 56-44; Republicans hope to narrow or eliminate that gap in November's elections.
Jack Anderson, a syndicated columnist, reported Sunday that Shelby has told key Republicans he will cross the aisle if the GOP falls one vote short of controlling the chamber in November.
Shelby has had several public disagreements with President Clinton and scored last in party loyalty among Democrats in a voting analysis conducted by Congressional Quarterly.