An early favorite who had Donald Trump’s endorsement until the former president took it back, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks lost a turbulent campaign for the Republican nomination for Senate Tuesday.
The loss, in his second bid for the Senate, means Brooks’ 12-year career on Capitol Hill will end when the current Congress adjourns in January.
Brooks was the first House member to say he would object to a handful of states’ 2020 Electoral College votes, echoing Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen. During a controversial speech at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally near the White House before a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, Brooks told the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
When Sen. Richard C. Shelby announced plans to retire, Brooks jumped into the race, and got Trump’s backing in April 2021. But as with his 2017 run when the state’s other Senate seat was open, Brooks failed to catch on, and Trump withdrew the endorsement 11 months later, accusing the longtime House Freedom Caucus member of having gone “woke.” Brooks responded by saying Trump had asked him to “rescind” the 2020 election.
Brooks lost Tuesday’s GOP primary runoff to Katie Britt, a former staffer to Shelby who took 65 percent of the vote to his 35 percent when The Associated Press called the race at 8:30 p.m. Central time.
Brooks had finished 15 points behind Britt in the May 24 primary, but she finished with about 45 percent and needed 50 percent to avoid the runoff. She was already the heavy favorite when Trump threw his support to her on June 10 calling Britt a “fearless America First Warrior,” in a statement.
Making the runoff was an improvement for Brooks, who finished third in the 2017 Senate primary behind the eventual nominee, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, and Sen. Luther Strange, whom Gov. Robert Bentley had appointed after Jeff Sessions resigned from the Senate to become Trump’s first attorney general. Moore, amid controversy, lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
In his Senate bid, Brooks, who represents the 5th District and was first elected in the 2010 tea party wave, had the backing of GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Club for Growth also backed Brooks by investing more than $4.4 million on ads attacking Britt and supporting Brooks.
The congressman has been a reliable vote for Republicans during his time in office, voting 97.8 percent of the time with his party on votes that split along party lines, according to CQ Vote Watch data. During the Trump administration, Brooks voted in line with the former president’s policy agenda 88.4 percent of the time, CQ Vote Watch found.
On Capitol Hill, Brooks cultivated a reputation as a combative, unapologetic conservative and has advocated for cutting federal spending and voted against raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
But he also played a role in authorizing and funding space programs.
The Marshall Space Flight Center, a NASA facility in Huntsville that develops rocket propulsion technology and spaceflight, is in his district. On the Science, Space and Technology Committee, Brooks supported NASA and space exploration programs, in particular the Space Launch System, the vehicle astronauts will use for deep space exploration missions being developed and tested at Marshall.
From the Armed Services Committee, Brooks has shaped defense policy. He added provisions to the fiscal 2022 defense policy measure from his bill to require the Federal Aviation Administration to give Defense Department civilian pilots recognition similar to what their military counterparts receive.
Born in South Carolina, Brooks moved to Huntsville as a child. In 2010, he ran for the House, handily beating incumbent Parker Griffith in the primary and then topping Democrat Steve Raby in the general election by nearly 16 percentage points.
He narrowly escaped injury during a shooting in 2017 at a park in Alexandria, Va., where Republicans held their congressional baseball practice. After the incident, Brooks said he and a few others took cover behind the batting cage tarp before scurrying to the other side of the field and diving into the first-base dugout for cover, where Brooks and a staffer unlooped their belts and applied a tourniquet to one of the staffers who’d been shot in the leg. He was awarded a “Medal of Merit” by the Capitol Police for his bravery.
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.