Durant seeks to take military, business experience to Senate

Durant seeks to take military, business experience to Senate

By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

AUBURN, Ala. – On Aug. 31, 2021, Americans watched intently as President Joe Biden declared the country’s longest war officially over. Among those witnessing the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was Army veteran Mike Durant, a former pilot who famously flew the Blackhawk helicopter that was shot down in Somalia.

Durant said he saw the withdrawal from Afghanistan as a waste of his and so many others’ sacrifices. 

“I was in shock that we as a country would just let it all fall the way we did,” Durant said in an interview with Alabama Daily News. “This was probably the turning point for me.”

The incident solidified plans to seek political office, specifically the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Richard Shelby.

With his youngest child preparing to leave home for college and Durant himself preparing to complete the transfer of his Huntsville company, Pinnacle Solutions, to its employees, there was no better time for him to run.

“Senators don’t retire all that often in the current system,” Durant said. “So the fact that I had the resources, it was the right time in my life, I was motivated to do it.  “There was an open seat…opportunities like that just don’t come along all that often, and I felt like there was a reason — a purpose for all of this, and it’s an opportunity for me to serve the country one more time.”

Though the anger he felt at Biden’s handling of Afghanistan may have been what set his run in motion, his priorities reflect both national and state interests beyond just defense.

Durant said that if elected, at the very top of his to-do list would be to finish the border wall that former President Donald Trump started, to make the country energy independent and to maintain a strong military. He believes that the biggest threat to Alabama right now is inflation because of its impact on the working class, and he has many ideas for solutions to that crisis.

“Energy independence helps us from a national security perspective, and it helps combat inflation,” Durant said, though he also noted other issues like the nationwide labor shortage, which he believes has been strung out by an abundance of federal COVID relief money. 

One thing Durant wants to see for Alabama specifically is more attention on trades in the workforce. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, though he said that college is not always the right choice for everyone.

With so many available jobs in the trades, Durant believes that many young people are getting themselves into an unnecessary amount of debt pursuing college, when they could make a great living working in jobs that don’t require four-year degrees. 

He reflected on classes he took in high school, including electrical work and wood shop, and said that he’s glad he was able to take those classes even though he did go on to earn a college degree, because those are skills he still uses in day-to-day life.

The Huntsville businessman originally moved his family to North Alabama after retiring from the military to work on a new helicopter for the army.  He worked for several small businesses during his first years in Huntsville, but eventually decided  to “take a leap of faith” and start Pinnacle Solutions, an aerospace and defense company based in Huntsville that Durant said now has 16 locations and is still growing. The company specializes in drone technology, which has been widely utilized by U.S. and allied forces in the Middle East. 

He equated his decision to start that company with his decision to run for Senate. 

“Career politicians don’t have an appreciation for the real world, because they live in this very bizarre, unique world that isn’t in touch with the reality of the state or the regions they represent.” 

He wants to bring his experience as both a veteran and a business owner to the job.

Durant quickly secured frontrunner status in the race against opponents Katie Britt and Congressman Mo Brooks, thanks in part to his ability to self fund his campaign to the tune of at least $3.1 million in television and radio ads. A March poll commissioned by Alabama Daily News and Gray Television showed Durant leading with 34.6% of the vote.

However, that lead was erased in just a month and a half as he became the target of negative attack ads. A follow up ADN/Gray poll in May showed Durant slipping 13 points to third place, leaving Britt as the race’s new leader.

CandidateMay 2022March 2022August 2021
Katie Britt32.0%28.4%17.7%
Mo Brooks22.5%16.1%40.8%
Mike Durant21.4%34.6%-
Someone else8.5%6.5%-
Undecided15.5%14.4%31.8%

The slide came after critics have hounded Durant about receiving support from those involved with the anti-Trump group, The Lincoln Project. He has worked to beat back the criticism by denouncing the group and pointing out that he can’t control who contributes to super PACs supporting him or what they do.

Last week, Durant took to Twitter seeking to distance himself from the Lincoln Project, tweeting a photo of a postcard he purportedly received from the group’s co-founder Rick Wilson. The postcard expressed disdain for Durant as a “pro-Trump, pro-gun conservative patriot,” but Wilson tweeted that he had not sent that postcard and ended up endorsing Durant publicly on the site, in what was apparently meant as a kiss of death from an individual despised by Trump loyalists.

Despite these and other attacks that come with running for office, Durant has enjoyed traveling the state on the campaign trail.

“Whether it’s Mobile or Auburn or Florence or Gadsden or everywhere in between, it’s an opportunity to meet people, see great places, eat great food, and there is a positive side to it; you just have to tolerate the negative,” he said.

Durant said he’s heard a lot of ideas and concerns from Alabamians throughout his travels, and if chosen for office, he wants to continue to listen closely to the people. 

He intends to fight for Second Amendment rights, anti-abortion policies, the enforcement of the Communications Decency Act and other Republican principles. 

“This is what the founding fathers envisioned,” Durant said. “They envisioned people like me….to go to Washington, serve their state, and go back.”