Britt looks to squelch Brooks comeback ahead of Alabama runoffs

GOP Senate candidate Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), is looking to squelch Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Ala.) political revival ahead of Alabama’s June 21 runoff.

Just this week, Britt won endorsements from Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. That’s on top of the support from Shelby, whose seat she’s trying to fill, and a group affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Meanwhile, Brooks is looking to supercharge a resurgence that allowed him to clinch a runoff spot after being left for politically dead in March when former President Trump rescinded his endorsement. A firebrand who appeared at a rally in Washington that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Brooks started the race as the front-runner, plummeted in post-March polls and then bounced back just enough to surpass former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant for second place last month.

The scramble is taking place in the home stretch to the runoff, which came after no candidate clinched more than 50 percent of the vote in the May 24 primary. And even though Britt outran Brooks by more than 15 points and remains on strong footing, there is enough uncertainty over the irregular, summertime election that nobody is ready to project a nominee.

“I think at this point, it’s still anybody’s race,” said Alabama GOP strategist Jon Jones, who is not working for either campaign. “Obviously, this is the middle of summer, and people have a lot of things on their minds besides elections. And so we’ll have to see actually who turns out to vote.”

Britt stormed out of Memorial Day weekend, continuing a blitz that has already taken her across all of Alabama’s 67 counties and announcing endorsements at a pace seemingly designed to maintain her post-primary momentum.

Cotton’s endorsement was announced Tuesday, followed by Sanders’s on Wednesday and Ernst’s on Thursday.

Each of them touted Britt’s conservative bona fides — an apparent effort to blunt her opponent’s attempts to cast himself as the true Republican in the race.

“Katie Britt will be a strong conservative fighter in the US Senate, and I’m happy to endorse her ahead of Alabama’s June 21 Republican primary runoff,” Ernst said in a statement. “Katie will be a tireless champion for strengthening our military, supporting our veterans, defending life, backing the blue, securing our border, and fighting for America’s family farmers.”

Alabama operatives said Britt was wielding the support well and that while the individual endorsements might not make a difference, their deliberate rollout offers voters a sense of momentum.

“I think, ultimately, endorsements individually are not major impacts,” Jones said. “But the main thing is just creating momentum within a campaign that says, ‘Hey, we’re going in the right direction. We’re going to win this thing. Here’s another example of why we’re going to do it. We have this endorsement today.’ That’s why the campaign’s releasing them that way. They don’t do them all at once. It’s just a hit here and hit here, and here’s another endorsement.”

The full-court press comes after Brooks surged from basement-level polling numbers to scrape his way to the runoff — an effort that benefited in part from Britt’s blistering ad campaign hitting Durant.

Now, Brooks is running as a conservative staunch to try to close the gap in one of the reddest states in the nation.

The six-term House member is running hard to the right, leaning into his firebrand reputation. Just recently, Brooks focused on claims of election wrongdoing in 2020 and released a video touting his efforts to fight “illegal immigration” while hitting Britt over his support for a state gas tax increase in 2019 as CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.

Brooks also has supporters of his own, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), as well as the anti-tax Club for Growth, which said it will be running ads for Brooks before the runoff. And on top of that, he’s already shown he can bounce back after losing the Trump endorsement, a development that had prognosticators getting ready for a Britt-Durant runoff.

“Alabamians are very independent in their voting. It is not in conflict for folks that we like, for example, Sarah Huckabee, to endorse someone and still vote for the other person, in this case Mo Brooks, that is not in conflict with each other. It is not in conflict to say, ‘I’m going to vote for Mo Brooks, but I still like Donald Trump,’” said former Alabama GOP Chairwoman Terry Lathan, a Brooks supporter.

In an interview, Brooks bet that the more voters are aware of his hardcore track record, the better his chances will be this month.

“Both of us are going to have our group of supporters by way of example. I’m gonna get the senators, by and large, who fought vote fraud and election theft activity on Nov. 3 through Jan. 6. Katie Britt will get the bulk of the senators that thought there was no voter fraud and who voted for Joe Biden on Jan. 6. That’s just the way these things naturally evolve,” he said.

“If the voters do their homework and discern the truth,” he added, “we will win.”

Still, there remain significant wild cards, including who Durant’s supporters — 23 percent of the vote last month — will back.

The former Army pilot near the end of the campaign lambasted Britt and said he would back Brooks in a runoff — though he has yet to officially endorse him.

“That is the million-dollar question. Because I think those people, you would have assumed, didn’t like either candidate as far as being their number one,” Jones said. “If you’re looking at this race, those Durant voters could very well make a decision.”

On top of that, turnout in the May primary hit only around 23 percent of registered voters and is expected to drop even lower more this month.

However, knowing which voters will come out during an irregular election in the scorching hot Alabama summer when voters’ kids are no longer in school is nearly impossible.

“We thought everybody was going to show up. And so if we had [23] percent, what’s that number gonna be?” asked Jefferson County GOP Chairman Paul DeMarco. “I think everybody’s kind of landed on where they’re gonna be. Who’s gonna do the best job of getting their voters back to the polls on the official first day of summer?”

Regardless of who wins the runoff, the seat is in safe GOP hands given Alabama’s deep-red hue. But the victor could indicate which flank of the GOP has the momentum between Britt’s practical reputation and Brooks’s firebrand style — and what the makeup of the next Senate could look like.

“There’s voters out there that want a Mo Brooks who is just gonna go out there and say, ‘No,’ and then you have those that are voters who want to be able to send somebody to DC who will be more pragmatic and someone who’s willing to try to get things done and reach across the aisle,” said Jones. “In the same way that you have these types of voters, then that creates those types of factions, so to speak, in the Senate and in the House.”

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