MONTGOMERY — U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby endorsed Katie Britt, his former chief of staff, in the GOP primary for his Senate seat, calling her the "best-qualified candidate to come along in a long time."

Shelby is retiring at the end of his term, igniting a competitive GOP primary for the nomination in the red-leaning state. In comments to Politico, Shelby threw his support behind Britt.

"She's like family. She'd make a good candidate. She's probably the best-qualified candidate to come along in a long time," Shelby said to Politico. "I'd support her, I'd vote for her."

Britt so far is in a three-way race for the nomination along with U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks and businesswoman Lynda Blanchard, who was former President Donald Trump's ambassador to Slovenia. Trump in April endorsed Brooks in the race.

The endorsement is not a surprise. Britt was Shelby's chief of staff before resigning to lead the Business Council of Alabama. She stepped down from the BCA in advance of her Senate run.

"I'm truly grateful for Senator Shelby's kind words and support. He's a fifth generation Alabamian who knows and loves our great state. As Alabama's greatest statesman, he has been an effective advocate for Alabama jobs and opportunity," Britt said in a statement.

Shelby said he did not expect to play a role in her campaign, saying that Britt has her own people.

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