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Wide Open Republican Senate Primary Gets Heated in Final Days of Race: 'The Gloves Have Come Off'

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Alabama’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby has become a bitter high-dollar contest with the three strongest contenders jockeying for the nomination.

The leading candidates are U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who won — and then lost — former President Donald Trump’s backing in the race; Katie Britt, the former leader of the Business Council of Alabama and Shelby’s former chief of staff; and Mike Durant, an aerospace company owner best known as the helicopter pilot whose capture during a U.S. military mission in Somalia was chronicled in the “Black Hawk Down” book and subsequent movie.

Lillie Boddie, Karla M. Dupriest and Jake Schafer also are seeking the GOP nomination.

Observers say it’s hard to predict whether the nomination will be settled in Tuesday’s primary. The fractured field increases the chances that the race will go to a June 21 runoff, which is required unless one candidate captures more than 50% of Tuesday’s vote.

David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant, said the race has an up-for-grabs feel.

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“It’s anybody guess as to who’s in first and who’s in second in the runoff,” he said.

As for the barrage of negative campaign ads in the primary’s closing days, Mowery said: “The gloves have come off.”

The Alabama race is one of several bitterly contested GOP primaries for open Senate seats. Retirements also sparked heated races this season in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and  Ohio.

Trump further scrambled the Alabama race this spring when he rescinded his endorsement of Brooks. Both Britt and Durant have courted Trump’s nod, but the former president has stayed out of the Alabama race since his rescission.

Should Trump have rescinded his endorsement of Brooks?

“We look at this country and don’t recognize it right now. Unfortunately, under the Biden administration, every single thing in this nation is moving in the wrong direction,” Britt said during a speech to the Republican Women of East Alabama.

Before leading the Business Council, Britt served as chief of staff to Shelby, one of the Senate’s most senior members and a traditional Republican known for his ability to bring federal projects and funding to his home state.

But in speeches, Britt, running under a slogan of Alabama First, has leaned away from her hefty Washington resume. She said it’s important that voters get to know her and the kind of senator she will be. Her experience, she said, gave her an opportunity to understand how the Senate works.

“I can hit the ground running on day one. And for me, Alabama First is not just a slogan. It’s a mission,” she said.

Brooks, a six-term congressman from north Alabama, is banking on his long history with Alabama voters to overcome his feud with Trump.

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“If you’re a conservative Republican, I would submit to you that I’m the only proven conservative in this race. With me there is no rolling the dice to determine how I’m going to go on major public policy issues,” Brooks said, urging people to look up his ratings from the National Rifle Association, Heritage Action and other groups.

Despite losing Trump’s backing, he continues to run as “MAGA Mo,” invoking Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, and his campaign website continues to include old video footage of Trump praising the north Alabama congressman.

Trump initially endorsed Brooks last year, rewarding the conservative firebrand who whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters at the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol incursion.

“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” Brooks said.

But Trump withdrew his endorsement in March after their relationship soured.

Trump cites Brooks’ languishing performance and accused the conservative congressman of going “woke” for saying it was time to move on from the 2020 presidential outcome and focus on upcoming elections. Brooks said Trump was trying to get him to illegally rescind the election.

Trump has not made a new endorsement in the race. Both Durant and Britt have maintained they are the superior choice for Trump’s backing if the race goes to a runoff.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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