Trump’s endorsement pull scrambles Alabama Senate race GOP primary

Published 9:04 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

Former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw his endorsement of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks has scrambled the Alabama Republican primary for Senate, leaving the two other frontrunners, Katie Boyd Britt and Mike Durant, competing for his nod.

Britt is a former head of a state business group with impressive fundraising totals, while Durant is a businessman best known as the helicopter pilot who was shot down and held prisoner in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia.

“The big question is what happens now,” said David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant. If Trump endorses one over the other, it would be a significant boost to their campaign, he said.

“It puts Durant or Britt in a position to potentially win without a runoff. … So, the question for those two really is, ‘Who is going to get it?’” Mowery said.

Both Britt and Durant have met with Trump recently and both bill themselves as the natural heir to the endorsement.

“Absolutely, we’d be thrilled to earn President Trump’s endorsement. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet with and talk with President Trump a few times about our race,” Britt said in a statement as she blasted President Joe Biden and said “Alabamians miss President Trump’s strength and America First leadership.”

Durant, in a statement, said he told Trump Monday that he is “the clear America first candidate in this race.”

“Other candidates have refused to even mention President Trump, but I have proudly carried the America First banner in this race and always will. I’ve got the momentum to beat the career politicians and send another Trump conservative to Washington,” Durant said.

The GOP primary in the conservative state will likely decide who succeeds GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, who’s retiring. Unless one candidate captures over 50% of the vote in the May 24 primary, the top two finishers will go to a June 21 runoff.

Britt served as chief of staff to Shelby, one of the Senate’s most senior members, but has leaned away from her Washington resume in recent campaign stops. Speaking to an Anniston GOP group, she did not mention Shelby’s name, instead focusing on her roots in small-town Alabama, working in her family’s hardware store and lobbing criticisms at Biden. Britt said it is important that voters know her separate from Shelby.

Durant has largely run an under-the-radar campaign with fewer media appearances.

Brooks is a conservative firebrand who supports Trump’s false 2020 election fraud claims. Brooks whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol insurrection, and voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s win.

But Trump rescinded his endorsement earlier this week, citing Brooks’ languishing performance in the race and Brooks’ jeer-inducing words at an Alabama rally that it was time to “look forward” from “the voter fraud election theft in 2020” and focus on the next election cycle.

Brooks has said he has not changed at all, and he accused Trump of dropping him for rebuffing the former president’s entreaties to help overturn the 2020 election. He maintains that Trump’s change of heart will not doom his Senate bid and that his chances remain “pretty good” to win the nomination.

Ann Eubank, a longtime fixture in Alabama GOP politics and Brooks supporter, said Wednesday that she had been inundated with text messages from people upset about Trump’s decision to walk away from Brooks.

“I think you are going to have two camps. There is going to be a camp of conservatives that are furious that Trump has abandoned the conservative in the race and then of course those who are going to vote for whatever Trump tells them to do,” Eubank of Hoover said.