MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Katie Britt won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama on Tuesday, defeating six-term Rep. Mo Brooks 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 lies and had run under the banner “MAGA Mo." But it wasn’t enough for the former president, who initially backed Brooks in the race to replace Britt's former boss, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, 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 win at a time his influence over the GOP has come under scrutiny. Trump has had a mixed record of success in backing candidates this election season, helping lift Senate candidates in Pennsylvania and Ohio while floundering elsewhere, particularly in Georgia. Voters in the onetime Republican stronghold rejected his efforts to unseat the state’s GOP governor and secretary of state, both of whom rebuffed his extraordinary pressure to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump's losing streak in Georgia, a crucial swing state this year and in the 2024 presidential campaign, deepened Tuesday as two of his endorsed congressional candidates faltered in their GOP run-off elections.
In the 6th District in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, emergency room physician Rich McCormick beat Trump-backed lawyer Jake Evans. And in the 10th District east of Atlanta, trucking company owner Mike Collins bested Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones.
Trump had persuaded Jones to run for the seat and drop his long-shot bid for governor to clear the field for his chosen candidate, former Sen. David Perdue. Perdue lost to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who endorsed Collins. The seat is being vacated by Republican Rep. Jody Hice, who also lost his bid to unseat Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another top Trump target.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser won the Democratic nomination to serve another term, fending off a pair of challengers amid concerns over rising crime and homelessness.
But 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 baseless claims of a stolen election. Brooks had voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory and delivered a fiery speech at the rally before the U.S. Capitol insurrection, 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 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."
In Virginia, Republicans were choosing between Trump-aligned congressional candidates to take on some of the most vulnerable Democrats in the fall.
In the coastal 2nd District, state Sen. Jen Kiggans won the Republican race to try to unseat Democrat Elaine Luria, a retired Naval commander and member of the Jan. 6 committee, in the general election. In central Virginia’s 7th District, six candidates are in a competitive race to face Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer.
At the polls Tuesday in Virginia Beach, Nanci Eves, 70, said she voted for Kiggans in part because she believes the candidate is best positioned to win in November.
“We need someone who can beat Elaine Luria,” said Eves, a retired nurse who lives in Virginia Beach and who thinks Democrats have made “a mess” of the country while in power.
In Georgia, Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen defeated former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler in the secretary of state’s race. Nguyen will face Republican Raffensperger, who rebuffed Trump’s efforts to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state’s 2020 presidential election and beat back a Trump-endorsed challenger in his May 24 primary.
Colvin reported from Washington. Ben Finley in Virginia Beach, Va., contributed to this report.
Jill Colvin And Kim Chandler, The Associated Press