The Trumpian Agenda Fueling Mo Brooks’ Senate Campaign
The Alabama representative is emphasizing border security, the fight against socialism, and—most of all—election integrity.
A year out from the 2022 midterms, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks is already barreling full steam ahead to try to win a seat in Congress’ upper chamber next year. Four years after his failed bid for Senate in Alabama’s 2017 special election, the Huntsville congressman announced in March that he would launch a bid to succeed Alabama’s GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, who said in February that he would not seek a seventh term.
Brooks has already snatched the golden ticket in any Republican primary right now: an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. “Few Republicans have as much COURAGE and FIGHT as Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks,” Trump said in a statement through his Save America super PAC in early April. Brooks also snagged an endorsement from Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul last week.
The only other declared GOP candidate is Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard, an Alabama businesswoman who has already invested $5 million of her own money into her campaign. (Blanchard’s campaign declined multiple requests for an interview with The Dispatch.) Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, who previously served as Shelby’s former chief of staff, has also hinted at possibly running.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill had planned to run, but he announced last month that he would not join the race after he was caught publicly lying about and then admitting to an extramarital affair.
In an interview with The Dispatch earlier this month, Brooks recited a laundry list of campaign proposals “in no particular order” heading into next year’s Senate primary. “Border security; the fight between socialism and free enterprise; our soon-to-be $30 trillion debt and the risk that poses for a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy of the federal government; moral values versus immoral values; freedom and liberty vs. dictatorial government; and of course, last but not least, whether we're going to have honest and accurate elections in America.”
It’s not a coincidence Brooks is emphasizing election integrity. He was one of the first House Republicans to announce last year that he would object to the certification of the Electoral College results, in keeping with then-President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Brooks’ conviction that the election was stolen drove him to deliver an incendiary speech at the January 6 “Save America March” that preceded the violence at the Capitol. “I’m Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama’s 5th Congressional District and I’ve got a message that I need you to take to your heart, and take back home, and along the way stop at the Capitol,” Brooks told the crowd in a roughly 10-minute speech.
“Regardless of today’s outcome, the 2022 and 2024 elections are right around the corner,” Brooks said that day in a nod to his forthcoming Senate bid. “And America does not need, and cannot stand, cannot tolerate, any more weakling, cowering, wimpy Republican congressmen and senators who covet the power and the prestige the swamp has to offer while groveling at the feet and the knees of the special interest group masters.”
“Today is the day American patriots start takin’ down names and kickin’ ass,” Brooks told the crowd.
A slew of Democratic lawmakers subsequently criticized Brooks for his rally speech, which prompted the Alabama congressman to release a statement on January 12 defending his “honor and reputation against scurrilous, George Orwellian, 1984, Socialist Democrats Politics of Personal Destruction.” Three months later, Brooks still stands by the remarks he delivered that day. “It was a great rally speech,” Brooks told The Dispatch. Footage from the speech has since been featured in several Facebook ads to promote his Senate campaign.
Three months after Joe Biden was sworn into office, Brooks continues to maintain that the election was stolen. “Well, what’s the most effective way to say it? In my judgment, if we only counted lawful votes cast by eligible American citizens, Donald Trump won the Electoral College,” Brooks told The Dispatch.
Brooks’ election denialism won’t lose him many voters in Alabama, where Trump won 62 percent of the vote in November. “If you're Mo Brooks you can’t dislike the position you're in, given that you’ve got Trump’s endorsement almost as soon as you announce,” said Jessica Taylor, Senate and governors editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Trump’s endorsements have played an important role in Alabama Republican politics. In 2017, he endorsed Roy Moore in the special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat after the latter resigned to become attorney general. Moore, a former judge who’d been suspended twice from the Alabama Supreme Court and who faced accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple women, won the primary but lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
And in last year’s primary, Trump endorsed former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville over Sessions in the primary to take the seat back from Doug Jones. Tuberville won the Republican nomination and the election.
Brooks may have an endorsement from Trump, but his bombastic personality may encourage establishment Republicans like Shelby to endorse a candidate who is more palatable to moderate Republicans. “Certainly if [Katie Britt] runs I think [Shelby] would endorse her,” Taylor said of Shelby’s former top aide.
Brooks’ candidacy may also prove to be a headache for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who back in 2017 endorsed former Alabama Sen. Luther Strange over Brooks in a failed effort to dampen support for Moore. The endorsement prompted Brooks to call for McConnell’s removal and denounce him as “head of the swamp.”
Should Brooks win the election, his tenure in the Senate would look radically different from that of Richard Shelby, a former Democratic congressman who switched to the Republican Party in 1994. “They are two different veins of politicians,” Taylor said, explaining that Shelby, like outgoing GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, is an institutionalist at heart. “[Brooks] would absolutely be in that sort of rabble-rouser caucus with Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz,” Taylor said.
Alabama’s GOP Senate primary was originally scheduled for May of next year. But following a delayed U.S. Census Bureau count, Alabama lawmakers have proposed pushing back the state’s 2022 primary and runoff dates by several weeks to give state officials sufficient time to complete the redistricting process.
Until then, Brooks is betting that his loyalty to the former president, voting record, and Huntsville roots will propel him to the Senate. “Huntsville is about to pass Birmingham as Alabama’s most populous city, so even if he has more opponents in his primary, geographically, he has a pretty nice base up in Northern Alabama,” said J. Miles Coleman, an assistant editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Coleman said that if enough establishment Republican lawmakers and interest groups view Brooks as too controversial a candidate, they may rally around a more mainstream Republican like Alabama Rep. Gary Palmer, who has a base in the Birmingham area. But he conceded it’s still far too early to see how next year’s primary will shake out. “We have a long way to go,” Coleman said. “Next year could be a different race, but overall just to have that Trump endorsement, I think that's definitely a plus for Brooks.”