MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Katie Britt won the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama on Tuesday, beating six-year-old Rep. Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former president Donald Trump took the unusual step of withdrawing his initial approval from Brooks.
The loss ends a turbulent campaign that pits Brooks, a conservative instigator who served in Congress for more than a decade, against someone who has never held an elected office. Brooks ran under the banner “MAGA Mo” and fully embraced Trump’s election lies. But that wasn’t enough for the former president, who initially backed Brooks in the race to replace Britt’s former boss, who was retiring. Richard Shelbybut then withdrew his support as Brooks languished in the polls.
The race was part of a handful of games held on Tuesday halfway through a primary season that has been shaped by Trump’s attempt to influence the GOP.
By the time Trump backed her earlier this month, Britt was already considered the favorite in the race. She emerged as the best vote-catcher in the May 24 primaries, but narrowly missed the threshold that led to a runoff. Still, Tuesday’s result gives Trump a victory at a time when his influence over the GOP is being scrutinized.
The former president has had varying degrees of success in supporting candidates this election season, helping to lift Senate candidates in Pennsylvania and Ohio while plodding elsewhere, most notably in Georgia. Voters in the former Republican stronghold rejected his attempts to impeach the GOP governor and secretary of state of the state, both of whom rejected his extraordinary pressure to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election. And his troubles in the pivotal swing state deepened Tuesday when two of his approved congressional candidates faltered in their GOP run-off elections†
In the 6th district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, doctor Rich McCormick defeated Trump-backed attorney Jake Evans. And in the 10th district east of Atlanta, transportation company owner Mike Collins defeated the Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones.
Trump persuaded Jones to run for the seat and drop his long-standing governor offer to clear the field for his elected candidate, former Senator David Perdue. Perdue lost to Republican government Brian Kemp, who supported Collins. The seat is being vacated by Republican Rep. Jody Hice, who also lost his bid to oust Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another of Trump’s top targets.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser won the Democratic nomination to serve another term, fending off a few challengers amid concerns over rising crime and homelessness.
But the Alabama Senate second round had drawn particular attention because of the drama surrounding Trump’s approval and because the winner, who will face Democrat Will Boyd in November, is considered the overwhelming favorite in the Republican state.
Britt, 40, cast herself as part of a new generation of conservative leaders as she scorned Brooks, 68, as a career politician. If she wins in November, Britt will be the first Alabama woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate and one of the youngest members. The state’s previous female senators had been appointed.
“Alabama has spoken. We want new blood. We want fresh blood,” she said at her victory party. “We want someone who will fight for Christian conservative values, who will fight for the liberties and liberties this country is founded on, and who will fight for the American dream for the next generation and the next generation.”
That argument seemed to resonate with some voters on Tuesday.
“She’s young. She’s smart,” said Carolyn Bowman, 86. “That’s what we need in Congress.”
Known for his bombastic oratorio style, Brooks described the race as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, pitting the “true conservative” wing against established members of the GOP. He scorned Britt, 40, as a RINO — the GOP’s pejorative meaning of “Republican in name only” — and insisted he was the only one with a proven conservative track record.
Brooks, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has a history of party leadership and made his opposition to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell a pillar of his campaign, embarking on a “Fire McConnell Tour past town halls.
In his concession speech Tuesday night, Brooks told supporters he respected the outcome of the race. But as a sign of the controversial race, he accused voters of being seduced by false advertisements and congratulated lenders and “special interest groups” for funding Britt’s campaign.
“We are sending to Washington, DC, the exact opposite of what we need in the United States Senate. But the voters have spoken. They may not have spoken wisely,’ he grumbled.
Brooks was initially considered the frontrunner when he announced his candidacy for the Senate, and Trump quickly offered his support and rewarded an ally who had been a staunch Trump supporter. false claims of election fraud† Brooks voted against confirming Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory and gave a fiery speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally that continued the US Capitol uprising, telling the crowd: “Today is the day when American patriots start knocking and kicking names.”
But their relationship soured as Brooks struggled to gain traction. Trump eventually withdrew his support in March, accusing Brooks — one of the most conservative members in Congress — of “waking up” for saying at a rally that it was time to move on to litigating the 2020 presidential election.
Brooks pushed his way into second place in the May primary and again tried to get Trump to back him. But instead, Trump threw his support for Britt 11 days before the runoff election who was widely expected to win.
Elsewhere, in Virginia, Republicans picked a few Trump-aligned congressional candidates to face two of the most vulnerable Democrats in the fall.
In the 2nd coastal district, Sen. Jen Kiggans won the Republican race to try to overthrow Democrat Elaine Luria, a retired naval commander and member of the Jan. 6 commission, in the general election. And in central Virginia’s 7th district, Yesli Vega emerged from a competitive field of six candidates to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
In the polls Tuesday in Virginia Beach, Nanci Eves, 70, said she voted for Kiggans in part because she believes the candidate is best positioned to win in November.
“We need someone who can beat Elaine Luria,” said Eves, a retired nurse who lives in Virginia Beach who thinks Democrats made “a mess” of the country while in power.
Colvin reported from Washington. Ben Finley in Virginia Beach, Virginia, contributed to this report.