At a meeting of Republicans in Alabama last year, Katie Britt and her husband strategically positioned themselves at the end of a reception line to shake hands with former President Donald Trump.
Britt, a lawyer and former chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby, recently announced her campaign to fill the seat vacant by her former boss, who is retiring. Trump had already backed her opponent, Representative Mo Brooks, but the pair hoped to cast doubt on Trump, according to four people familiar with the meeting.
As the couple greeted Trump, Britt’s husband, Wesley Britt — a hefty retired NFL lineman — told the former president that he had once played for the New England Patriots. “The only time you met me, I think I was wrapped in a towel in the Patriots’ locker room,” Wesley Britt is said to have told Trump, who found it hilarious, replying that billionaire Robert K. Kraft owner of the team , “I like very much.”
From then on, Katie Britt positioned herself as a formidable competitor with shrewd political skills who constantly tried to convince Trump that she deserved his endorsement instead.
In March, Trump gave Britt half of what she wanted, withdrawing his endorsement of Brooks — far behind in the polls at the time — because, he said, the far-right congressman had “woke up.” Then, this month, with Britt clearly on track to triumph, the former president backed her, seemingly in an effort to break his approval record.
Ten months after her brief exchange with Trump last August, Britt claimed victory in the Republican primary for the Alabama open Senate seat on Tuesday, capping a hard-fought campaign for her party’s nomination against Brooks. In a state with an entrenched conservative leaning, she is almost certain of winning the November general election.
Britt is also one step closer to making history as the first woman in Alabama to be elected to the Senate. Her Democratic opponent is a pastor, Will Boyd, who has made failed attempts for the Senate, the House and the Lieutenant Governor.
Shortly after polls closed on Tuesday, Shelby, who has known Britt since her days as an intern at his office, said he was overjoyed for her.
“She’s an excellent person — she’s got the brains, the drive and the compassion,” he said.
Britt, 40, is seen as part of a younger generation of pro-Trump Republicans, and her husband’s banter with Trump was seen by those familiar with the meeting as a smart move that proved essential to her nomination.
Britt entered the primaries with little name recognition and big odds against Brooks, who had more than a decade of experience in the House and gained Trump’s backing after he turned the crowds at the former president’s rally for the attack on the Capitol on 6 January. , 2021.
But Trump withdrew his support for Brooks in March as Brooks struggled to gain traction under an avalanche of attack ads and criticized his decision to urge an audience at a Trump rally to put the 2020 election behind him. “Katie Britt, on the other hand, is a fearless America First Warrior,” Trump said in a statement this month when he supported Britt.
That move didn’t completely wipe out Brooks, who still managed to take second place in the May 24 Alabama primary, taking 29% of the vote. Britt took in 45%, less than the majority that would have prevented a second round between the two best voters.
Britt posed as an “Alabama First” candidate, playing off Trump’s campaign slogan “America First,” and focused her run on her Christian faith, hard-line border enforcement policies, and ties to business.
As an assistant to Shelby, one of the most senior members of the Senate, she worked on some of his signature issues, including a sweeping Republican package of tax cuts in 2017, confirmation from conservative judges and a push for a border wall along the US-Mexico border.
She most recently headed the Business Council of Alabama, a powerful lobbying group, and led a “Keep Alabama Open” campaign in November 2020 against the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, forcing non-essential businesses to close or restrict their services. . She also opened up council resources, typically reserved for paying members, to all small businesses during the health crisis.
On the policy side, Britt and Brooks had ideological differences: He represented a more aggressive kind of arch-conservatism as one of the founders of the Freedom Caucus, while Britt, like Shelby, was seen as more focused on economic development. But in oratorical style, she echoed the far-right talking points that have become commonplace in the Republican Party.
“When I look at what’s happening in Washington, I don’t recognize our country,” Britt said in a video introducing herself to voters. “The left are attacking our religious freedoms and promoting a socialist agenda. In Joe Biden’s America, people can raise more money at home than they can earn at work.”
The campaigns and supporters of Britt, Brooks and a third top competitor in the race, Mike Durant, a former army pilot, spent millions of dollars on negative advertising.
Brooks and his supporters tried to portray Britt as a lobbyist and a RINO — a favorite insult used by Trump supporters at politicians they believe are Republicans in name only.
She fired back with attacks portraying Brooks as a career politician. It also helped that Brooks had a poor performance at Trump’s Alabama rally last August, just after Britt began her silent campaign to win the former president over to her cause. What started that evening as an enthusiastic response for Brooks turned into booing as he urged those in attendance to leave the 2020 presidential election behind and focus on 2022 and 2024.
Trump called him back onstage for a second appearance, calling him “a fearless fighter for your sacred right to vote.”
Later, when the former president withdrew his endorsement from Brooks, he said the congressman had made a “terrible mistake” with his comments during that fateful meeting.
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