By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate is going to a June runoff between Katie Britt and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who overcame losing former President Donald Trump’s endorsement to remain a contender for the GOP nomination.
The candidates are seeking the Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who is retiring. Britt is Shelby’s former chief of staff and the former leader of the Business Council of Alabama. Brooks is a six-term congressman from north Alabama.
The two edged out Mike Durant, a businessman best known as the helicopter pilot shot down and held captive in the events chronicled in “Black Hawk Down,” to advance to a June 21 runoff, which is required when no candidate captures more than 50% of the initial vote.
“It is clear tonight that Alabamians want new blood. They want someone to go to Washington, D.C., and shake it up. It is clear that they want a true Christian conservative Republican who will lead on the America first agenda and doesn’t just talk about it but knows how to actually get something done,” Britt told supporters gathered in Montgomery.
Britt earned about 45% of the vote statewide Tuesday to Mo Brooks’ 29%, pitting the two in a head-to-head contest on June 21. Durant, who led the race back in March according to most polls, came in third with 23%.
Britt won 62 counties outright, tied in two and was edged out by Brooks by a few points in the north Alabama counties of Madison and Morgan. She racked up sizable margins in some of Alabama’s most populous counties. She won 50% in Montgomery, 49% in Mobile, 41% in Jefferson, 46% in Baldwin, 49% in Tuscaloosa, 55% in Lee and 57% in Houston.
Some had largely written Brooks off two months ago when Trump dramatically dumped his once-favored candidate in the primary. Brooks fought his way back to a second-place finish behind Britt, harnessing his history with voters, stumping with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and benefiting from a series of negative ads targeting Durant.
Brooks had continued to run under the banner of “MAGA Mo,” referencing Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan. In his Tuesday night speech, Brooks called himself the “America First, MAGA candidate” in the race, and said he has a proven record on issues like border security and opposition to abortion.
“This Senate runoff is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. It’s a battle to advance the United States of America,” Brooks said.
Trump had initially endorsed Brooks in the race, rewarding the firebrand congressman who spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021. But the former president rescinded that backing in March, citing unhappiness with Brooks’ performance and accusing the conservative congressman of going “woke” for suggesting it was time to move on from Trump’s false claims of 2020 election fraud. Trump did not endorsed another candidate in the primary.
Phil. T. McCuiston Jr., 83, wore a cap emblazoned with “Trump” Monday to hear Brooks speak with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Huntsville.
“Trump gets 95% of them right, but on this one I’m going to stand with Brooks,” said McCuiston, a retired businessman. “He’s got the record.”
In east Montgomery, Jack Graham, 71, voted for Britt on Tuesday.
“It’s time to let the young people take over. Let’s see what she can do. I think she’s smart. She’s level-headed. She has a good background. She’s got good experience,” Graham said.
Outside groups pumped more than $20 million into the race, and Brooks benefited from a series of ads that took aim at Durant, including one from a political action committee that portrayed the former prisoner of war as opposing gun rights. Durant has called the ad “patently false” and said it was difficult to overcome an opponent with “zero integrity and unlimited resources.” He urged supporters to back candidates who want to go to Washington to do something different.
“You can’t stand here and complain about what’s going on in Washington, D.C., and then go cast your vote for somebody who’s part of the establishment,” Durant said in his concession speech Tuesday.
The Republican nominee will face the Rev. Will Boyd, a minister and engineer from Hoover, who defeated two opponents in Tuesday’s primary. Boyd was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018 but lost to Republican Will Ainsworth.