Brooks blames Britt and Shelby for GOP losing House in 2018 and Senate in 2020

Brooks blames Britt and Shelby for GOP losing House in 2018 and Senate in 2020


U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt’s role as chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby in 2017, contributed to Democrat Doug Jones’s unlikely victory in that year’s special Senate election and was a “contributing” factor to the GOP losing the U.S. House and Senate majorities in 2018 and 2020, according to U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks’ campaign.

State records show that Britt did not vote in either the 2017 runoff or the general election. She did vote in that year’s Republican primary, which occurred slightly more than one month before the runoff.

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In emailed comments to AL.com last week, a spokesman for the Brooks campaign said, “the Shelby/Britt efforts to elect Doug Jones in 2017″ over Republican Roy Moore helped inspire Democrats “to run in ruby red states in 2018 and 2020, contributing to the GOP losing the House in 2018 and the Senate in 2020.”

Brooks was a candidate during the 2017 primary, finishing in third place behind Moore and former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

The Brooks campaign is continuing its scrutiny of Shelby’s role ahead of that election, and linking Britt to it. Shelby, weeks before the 2017 general election, disclosed that he voted for a “distinguished Republican write-in” and that he could not vote for the scandal-marred Moore.

Voters followed the lead: Close to 23,000 write-in votes were submitted during that election, which was more than Jones’s margin of victory.

“That is how bad their betrayal has proven to be,” said spokesman Will Hampson, connecting the Jones win to the Republicans losing the House and Senate majorities.

The Brooks campaign also tied the Jones victory, by way of Shelby and Britt, to preventing Republicans from having a deciding vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as “ObamaCare” – in 2018.

“We would have had the votes to repeal ObamaCare in 2018 but for Shelby/Britt’s efforts to elect Doug Jones in 2017,” said Hampson.

‘Tight race’

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump points out to an Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore supporter as he speaks at a campaign-style rally at the Pensacola Bay Center, in Pensacola, Fla., Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Moore lost the Dec. 12, 2017, special election to Democrat Doug Jones despite Trump’s endorsement. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)AP

The Britt campaign has said that she was living at the time of the 2017 elections in Washington, D.C., and that was the reason she did not vote during runoff and general elections. She was serving as Shelby’s chief of staff at the time.

Sean Ross, a spokesman with the Britt campaign, noted that Brooks “is obsessed with 2017 because he lost then, just as he’s going to lose in 2022.”

Brooks finished with 19.7% of the vote during the 2017 GOP primary. Moore (38.9%) and Strange (32.8%) advanced to the runoff.

Moore defeated Strange during the runoff, before his candidacy unraveled in November and early December 2017 over accusations that he pursued sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s.

“Alabamians are ready for fresh blood and are tired of do-nothing career politicians who make running for office a business model,” Ross said. He then referred to polling from last month that showed Brooks and Britt in a tight race, a change from earlier in 2021 when Brooks seemed to have enjoyed a wide lead.

Said Ross, “permanent politician Mo Brooks, the Joe Biden of Alabama, has blown a 50-point lead because Alabamians are ready for him to ride off into the sunset.”

The Brooks campaign points out that Britt’s campaign is not explaining why she voted during the GOP primary – as state records indicate – and not during the subsequent runoff and general election. The Britt campaign did not disclose as to why she voted in primary, but not the subsequent contests other than to say she was living in Washington, D.C. at that time.

The primary occurred on August 15, 2017. The runoff was on September 26, 2017.

“Katie Britt publicly claims she did not vote in the 2017 general election because she lived and worked in D.C. … she has yet to explain, why, then did she vote a short time earlier in the 2017 GOP primary, also while she lived and worked in D.C.,” Hampson said.

Hampson also said that Britt, by way of Shelby’s write-in vote in 2017, undermined the endorsement by President Donald Trump ahead of the 2017 special election. Trump endorsed Moore leading up to the general election.

Brooks is endorsed by Trump ahead of the May 24 primary, though a national media repot in December indicated that the former president was “impressed” with Britt’s fundraising. Brooks has said those reports were based on anonymous reporting and has blamed the Britt campaign for pushing the story out to national journalists.

Hampson said the 2017 election activity “is just one of many reasons why President Trump has said Katie Britt is not qualified to be Alabama’s U.S. Senator.”

‘Stood with them’

Retired Army aviator and Senate candidate Mike Durant

Retired Army aviator and Senate candidate Mike Durant. (Durant campaign)

According to Alabama Secretary of State records, both Brooks and Britt have voted in general elections and primaries going back to 2014. The two voted in the primary and runoff elections in 2014 and 2020. Britt did not vote during the 2018 statewide elections – as her campaign has said she was living in Washington, D.C. at the time – but records show she voted in all three elections in 2020.

The biggest omission from voting is political newcomer Mike Durant. Records show he has voted only twice since 2014, and both times were during general elections in 2016 and 2020. He has not voted in any Republican Party primaries within the past eight years, records show.

Brooks, Britt, and Durant are viewed as the leading candidates for the GOP nomination.

Durant’s campaign did not respond late last week for a request for comment.

Earlier last week, Durant’s campaign said the former U.S. Army pilot and businessman from Huntsville was “100% opposed to Doug Jones,” after Brooks claimed to be the only candidate in the race to actually vote against Jones in 2017.

“I am highly confident that Republican primary voters, particularly the 650,000 of them who voted against Doug Jones in 2017, will know that Mo Brooks is the only candidate for the United States Senate who stood for them,” said Brooks during an interview with AL.com in Mobile last week.

Asked whether Durant’s candidacy should be questioned because of his lack of voting in GOP primaries, Hampson said, “If Katie Britt can be on the GOP ballot after helping … Doug Jones win in ruby red Alabama, then Mike Durant is certainly qualified to be on the Republican ballot in 2022.”

‘Principles, not pettiness’

The focus on past voting activity is expected to be talking point for Brooks in the coming months.

But will it matter much to voters? The Alabama GOP has a past of disqualifying candidates based on their support of opposing political parties, but it has not frowned upon candidates who opted not to vote during past elections.

In 2014, for instance, the state party disqualified a conservative Christian talk show host from running in an Alabama State Board of Education race because she endorsed the Constitution Party on her show. But the disqualification did not consider the candidate’s past voting record.

Registered voters are able to submit challenges to the state party and are asked to submit documentation to back up their claims that a candidate does not belong in the primary. The members of the state party’s executive committee then decides whether the challenge is justified and gives the candidate a chance to plead their case before making a decision.

The state GOP did not respond to an email request for comment.

Brent Buchanan, a GOP pollster and campaign strategist based in Montgomery, said he’s been involved in dozens of races where “one candidate tried to make an issue out of the other candidate’s voting history.” He said he cannot recall one instance where it was effective.

“Voters vote for people and principles, not pettiness,” said Buchanan.

Thomas Shaw, a political science professor at the University of South Alabama, said he does not believe Britt’s connection with Shelby, or the 2017 special Senate election will be “particularly damaging” to her candidacy.

He noted that during the 2020 Senate race the questions over residency did not matter much to Republican voters.

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, following the GOP primary, was disclosed as having been a registered voter in Florida in the elections leading up to his decision to run for the U.S. Senate in Alabama.

Tuberville, who had Trump’s endorsement, easily won the GOP runoff against former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and then rolled to a general election victory against Jones.

“It may move a few voters here and there but in the main, I don’t see either of these issues causing significant changes,” said Shaw. “I think the voters will focus more on the specific messages of each of the candidates and it would take something far more scandalous than these two issues to cause voters to reconsider their support for one of these candidates.”

He added, “Particularly as it relates to a lack of voting, many voters will likely identify with their own lack of voting at times and not feel this is a poignant argument.”



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