Katie Britt won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama on Tuesday, defeating six-term Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump took the unusual step of rescinding his endorsement of Brooks.
The loss ends a turbulent campaign for Brooks, a conservative firebrand who fully embraced Trump's election challenges and had run under the banner "MAGA Mo." But it was not enough for the former president, who initially backed Brooks in the race to replace Britt's former boss, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., but then pulled his support as Brooks languished in the polls.
Trump eventually endorsed Britt in the race's final stretch after she emerged as the top vote-getter in the state's May 24 primary. She will face Democrat Will Boyd in November in the overwhelmingly Republican state.
The race was among a handful of contests held Tuesday at the midpoint of a primary season that has been shaped by Trump's effort to influence the GOP.
While Britt was already considered the favorite by the time Trump got behind her, the result gives the former president a victory at a time his influence over the GOP has come under scrutiny.
The Alabama Senate runoff had drawn particular attention because of the drama surrounding Trump's endorsement. Trump initially endorsed Brooks in the spring of 2021, rewarding an ardent champion of his claims of a stolen election. Brooks had voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden's presidential election victory and delivered a fiery Jan. 6 speech at the rally before the Capitol was stormed by protesters, telling the crowd, "Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."
But nearly a year later, Trump rescinded his support after the pair's relationship soured and as Brooks languished in the polls. Trump blamed his decision on comments Brooks had made months earlier, at an August rally, when he said it was time for the party to move on from litigating the 2020 presidential race — comments Trump claimed showed Brooks, one of the most conservative members of Congress, had gone "woke."
Brooks, who is known for his bombastic oratory style, has described the primary race as a battle for the soul of Republican Party, pitting the "true conservative" wing against establishment members of the GOP. He disparaged Britt, 40, as a "RINO" — the GOP pejorative meaning "Republican in name only" — and maintained he was the only one with a proven conservative record.
The founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus also made his opposition to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a pillar of his campaign, embarking on a "Fire McConnell Tour" of town halls.
In his concession speech Tuesday night, Brooks told supporters he respected the race's outcome. But in a sign of the contentious race, he accused voters of having been seduced by false advertising and congratulated high-dollar donors and "special interest groups" for funding Britt's campaign.
"We are sending to Washington, D.C., the exact opposite of what we need in the United States Senate. But the voters have spoken. They might not have spoken wisely," he groused.
Britt, meanwhile, cast herself as part of a new generation of conservative leaders while disparaging Brooks, 68, as a career politician. If victorious in November, Britt will be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama and one of its 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 freedoms and liberties this nation was founded on and will fight for the American dream for the next generation and the next generation."
That argument seemed to resonate with some voters Tuesday.
"She's young. She's smart," said 86-year-old Carolyn Bowman. "That's what we need in Congress."
© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.