In the 2022 Republican contest for the U.S. Senate, the GOP ghosts of the 2017 special Senate election could surface.
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville – who was a Republican candidate for the Senate five years ago, but who fell short during the GOP primary – said Monday that he is the only current Republican Senate candidate to “vote against Doug Jones” during an election outcome that led to the only Democratic victory in an Alabama statewide contest since 2008. It was the first time a Democrat won an Alabama Senate race since 1992.
“Do you realize I’m the only Republican in this race who stood with 650,000 Republicans to vote against Doug Jones for the United States Senate in 2017?” Brooks said before a group of Republicans at a Mobile County GOP executive committee meeting. “That’s remarkable.”
Brooks told AL.com that he plans on continuing to hit on the 2017 election during the campaign ahead of the May 24 GOP primary.
“This is a Republican Party,” Brooks said. “We are a political party, not a social club. We have political beliefs. We are pro-life. We are for border security. We are against socialized medicine. We are for conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and we did not vote for the impeachment of Donald Trump.”
Brooks continued, “Doug Jones was on the wrong side of every single one of those positions. I am highly confident that Republican Party voters, particularly the 650,000 of them who voted against Doug Jones in 2017, will know Mo Brooks is the only candidate for the United States Senate who stood for them.”
Brooks and opponent Katie Britt butted heads over the issue during a past campaign appearance. The issue arose during a candidates forum in September, when Brooks questioned Britt on whether she supported then-GOP nominee Roy Moore. Britt, the former president of the Business Council of Alabama, said she never supported or voted for a Democrat in her life.
Britt did not vote in the 2017 special election because she was living and working in Washington, D.C., at the time. She is a former aide to retiring Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who has since endorsed her candidacy and is pledging financial support.
“Katie is surging in the polls because Alabamians know that she is the best candidate to protect our Christian conservative values and ensure Alabama always has the best possible seat at the table,” said Sean Ross, spokesman for the Britt campaign, referring to a December poll by McLaughlin & Associates showing a close contest with Brooks polling slightly ahead of Britt.
“Meanwhile, her 40-year career politician opponent has already blown a 50-point lead in the race. It is clear that the people of Alabama are seeing through his tired act. Just like Joe Biden, he’s trying to get yet another promotion on the taxpayer dime without any record of actually accomplishing something for his constituents.”
Brooks, while in Mobile, did not mention Shelby by name nor his influence in that election’s outcome or Britt’s past ties to the senator.
Shelby, in the weeks before the election, said he voted absentee and for a “distinguished Republican write-in.” Voters seemed to have followed the lead. Close to 23,000 write-in votes were submitted, representing 1.7 percent of the overall vote. Jones’s margin of victory was slightly under 22,000 votes.
President Donald Trump, who endorsed Moore ahead of the election, credited the write-in votes for the Jones win. Moore has since blamed Shelby for his defeat.
In pre-election interviews, Shelby said that Alabama deserved better than having Moore in the Senate and that he simply could not vote for the Republican nominee. His lack of support for Moore’s candidacy was viewed as a rarity in modern American politics in which a sitting senator did not vocally endorse his party’s nominee for the junior senator post within his own state.
Moore’s candidacy was unraveling in November and early December 2017 over accusations that he pursued sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s.
Jessica Taylor, another 2022 Senate hopeful, has also admitted to not voting for Moore. She told radio show host Jeff Poor in September that she did not support Moore, and said he was not the type of conservative who should represent the Republican Party.
It’s unclear if former U.S. Army pilot and businessman Michael Durant of Huntsville voted during the 2017 election.
A campaign spokesman said in an email that Durant “100% opposed Doug Jones.”
“At the time Mo Brooks, however, was accusing President Trump of ‘waterboarding’ Jeff Sessions and offering to drop out of the same Senate race if Jeff Sessions wanted his old seat back,” the campaign wrote in an email to AL.com, referring to comments Brooks reportedly made during the summer of 2017 while Trump and the former U.S. Attorney General were at odds. “Mo Brooks has repeatedly turned his back on President Trump and he’s the wrong choice for Alabama.”
Exit polling from the 2017 election showed that Jones won the election largely on the back of Black voters who gave him near unanimous support. But the polling also showed that among female voters as a whole, Jones won by 16 points – 57%-41%. Moore had an advantage among white male and female voters – 73% of white men backed the Republican over Jones, while 63% of white women backed him.
Broken down further, white women with college degrees supported Moore but by a much slimmer 52%-45% split.
This story was updated at 9:33 a.m. on January 4, 2022, to include comments from a Mike Durant campaign spokesman.