Alabama GOP Senate race heads to runoff

Katie Britt, a former top aide to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., advanced to a runoff election in the Alabama GOP Senate primary on Tuesday, NBC News projects.

None of the leading contenders secured more than 50 percent of the vote, forcing a runoff, set to take place on June 21. Businessman and former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant, who was polling third, announced his concession Tuesday evening.

With 84 percent of the expected vote in just prior to midnight E.T., Britt secured 45.2 percent and held a more than 16-point edge over Brooks.

“Thank you, Alabama! What an incredible night!” Britt tweeted after advancing to the runoff. “We still have a lot of work to do.” In his election night address, Brooks vowed to fight “McConnell-Britt” efforts in the race.

Brooks, once a close ally of former President Donald Trump, was an early favorite in the race to replace the retiring Shelby. Trump endorsed Brooks in April 2021 but, after months of steadily declining poll numbers, he rescinded the endorsement.

Trump blamed comments Brooks made several months earlier at an August 2021 rally that it was time to move on from the 2020 election and “look forward.”

“When I endorsed Mo Brooks, he took a 44-point lead and was unstoppable,” Trump said in March. “He then hired a new campaign staff who ‘brilliantly’ convinced him to ‘stop talking about the 2020 Election.’ He listened to them.”

Britt has repeated Trump’s claims that there was fraud in the 2020 election and told AL.com in March that a “forensic audit” was needed. Brooks echoed Trump’s claims as well.

In pulling his endorsement, Trump was backing away from one of his fiercest defenders and a man widely considered to be one of the most conservative members of Congress. At Trump’s rally ahead of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, Brooks addressed the crowd, saying: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Brooks, along with two other GOP lawmakers, recently turned down requests for testimony from the House Jan. 6 Committee.

Brooks in March accused Trump of allowing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to “manipulate him again.” McConnell is backing Britt, Shelby’s former chief of staff and a past head of the Business Council of Alabama, while a McConnell-affiliated super PAC contributed $2 million to an anti-Brooks super PAC. In that same statement, Brooks said Trump “asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency.”

“As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks,” he said. “Period.”

In recent weeks, Brooks has experienced a rebound in the polls. A survey released last week by Alabama Daily News and Gray TV found Britt in first at 31 percent followed by Brooks at 29 and Durant, a retired Army helicopter pilot whose capture during a U.S. military mission in Somalia was portrayed in “Black Hawk Down,” at 24 percent. 

Speaking with NBC News on Tuesday, Brooks said his campaign was able to “start campaigning more aggressively” after Trump pulled his endorsement.

“No one has 100 percent influence,” Brooks said of Trump. “There are varying degrees of influence in different parts of the country.”

Brooks has received backing from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., as well as the conservative economic group Club for Growth, which has spent millions on Republican primaries across the country and recently split with Trump over endorsements in the Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate races.

Earlier this week, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform in response to a news story about Brooks’ campaign sending out mailers with Trump’s past endorsement. “CAN’T DO THAT MO!” Trump wrote. Brooks’ campaign told the Alabama Political Reporter the mailing was “an honest mistake that wasn’t supposed to happen.”

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