Katie Britt has won the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama, defeating six-term U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Trump took the unusual step of switching his endorsement.
The loss ends a turbulent campaign for Brooks, a conservative firebrand who had 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 C. 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 from the state’s May 24 primary with the most votes.
The race was among a handful holding contests Tuesday at the midpoint of a primary season that has been shaped by Trump’s effort to influence the GOP.
After bruising defeats in last month's Georgia primaries, Trump's losing streak there continued 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 GOP Rep. Jody Hice, who lost his bid to unseat Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another top Trump target.
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 has drawn particular attention due to the drama surrounding Trump's endorsement and the fact that the winner will likely prevail in November in a state Trump won twice by more than 25 percentage points.
Trump initially endorsed Brooks in the spring of 2021, rewarding an ardent champion of his baseless claims of a stolen presidential election. Brooks had voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, and delivered a fiery speech at Trump's 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 the lawmaker languished in the polls. Trump cited comments Brooks had made 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.”
The move was widely seen as an effort by Trump to save face amid other losses, and Brooks alleged that it came after he informed Trump that there was no way to “rescind" the 2020 election, remove Biden from power, or hold a new special election for the presidency.
Trump's un-endorsement was widely expected to end Brooks' campaign. Instead, Brooks managed to finish second in the state’s May 24 primary, earning 29% of the vote to Britt's 45% and forcing a runoff.
Brooks tried once again to get Trump to endorse him, but Trump, who has had a mixed record in backing winning candidates, instead chose Britt, Shelby's former chief of staff.
Although Brooks, 68, and Britt, 40, have similar views, their race represented a clash between two wings of the party as well as different generations.
Brooks, who is known for his bombastic oratory style, described the race as a battle for the soul of Republican Party, pitting the “true conservative” wing against establishment members of the GOP. He disparaged Britt as a RINO — the pejorative GOP acronym for “Republican in name only” — and maintained he was the only one with a proven conservative record.
The six-term congressman and 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.
He won the backing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who said he would be a needed hard-line addition to the Senate.
“This is a race about conservatives versus the establishment,” Paul said Friday in Alabama. “We need a fighter. We’re not going to get it if you send us any old Republican. We need a fighter like Mo Brooks.”
Britt, meanwhile, cast herself as one of a new generation of conservative leaders. She had the endorsement of Shelby and other establishment Republicans, but emphasized her own socially conservative beliefs and tried to paint Brooks as a career politician.
“People want new blood. They want fresh blood. They want someone that will go to D.C., fight for their values and fight for the hardworking people of Alabama,” she told reporters Tuesday as she voted with her husband, former New England Patriot player Wesley Britt, and two children.
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 were in a competitive race to face Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer.
At the polls in Virginia Beach, Nanci Eves, 70, said Tuesday that she'd voted for Kiggans in part because the candidate seemed best-positioned to win in November.
“We need someone who can beat Elaine Luria,” said Eves, a retired nurse 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 Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent who rebuffed Trump’s efforts to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state, and went on to beat back a Trump-endorsed challenger in the May 24 primary.
Colvin reported from Washington and Chandler from Montgomery, Ala. Associated Press writer Ben Finley in Virginia Beach, Va., contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.