Alabama Republicans are heading for a fierce battle in the state’s Senate primary that will pit three candidates from various flanks of a fractured GOP against one another, The Hill reported on Monday.
"We have a wide range of values and issues that are important to people in a primary election, and each of these candidates represent values that showcase that diversity," said Alabama Republican Chairman John Wahl.
There are increasing expectations that no candidate will capture an outright majority in the primary on May 24, which would then send the contest to a June runoff.
In this reddest of states, the primary is largely a contest between Rep. Mo Brooks and Katie Boyd Britt, the former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, whose seat they are attempting to fill.
But Mike Durant, a former Black Hawk pilot who was shot down in Somalia in 1993, has the backing of a super PAC, an outsider status, and is vastly outspending Brooks and Britt on ads.
"I think that it's gonna be very hard for any of them to get 50% plus one," David Mowery, an Alabama operative who works with Democrats and Republicans, told The Hill. "I think right now it'd be a coin flip as to who gets into the runoff."
Brooks entered the race last summer as the favorite and has a long reputation as a fiery conservative. He was a top opponent of certifying the 2020 presidential election results and received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
But Britt has surprised political watchers with a recent surge by preaching her message all across the state while Brooks was largely absent from the campaign trail due to his congressional obligations.
An August survey showed her well behind Brooks, 41% to 17%, but by December the polls had her trailing by only five percentage points.
Britt also holds a commanding fundraising edge, finishing the third quarter with $3.3 million in the bank compared with just $1.8 million for Brooks.
Alabama GOP strategist Jonathan Gray questioned how Brooks has "not been out there campaigning, stumping, building alliances, having fundraisers. How did he cede six, seven months of opportunity to someone that wasn't even in third place ... seven months ago?"
Gray predicted that the increasingly close primary contest will cause the three candidates to double down on their conservative bona fides, which means "they're going to do a really great job of pointing out how each of the other is either a turncoat, a traitor or worthless," The Hill reported.
Britt, who was previously the CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, enjoys the quiet support of several U.S. senators and the business community, which will likely help maintain fundraising.
However, the Republican Party’s establishment flank does not necessarily currently attract the GOP grassroots, and she could find herself at a disadvantage in a battle of the bases.
Mowery pointed out to The Hill that "there's still a larger amount of country music Republicans than country club Republicans. You can't just rely on the Business Council types and the traditional Republican conservatives."
Britt has apparently recognized that reality by emphasizing GOP culture war issues, including saying recently that tech companies are "working to cancel conservative, Christian thought."
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