Jeff 2021 headshot

A lot can happen in a year. Nothing’s a gimme in life, especially in politics. Just ask about anyone mentioned in this column and they’ll tell you things seldom go as planned when it comes to Alabama elections.

     The field of candidates is beginning to take shape for the GOP primary to replace U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, who at the age of 87 will not run for a sixth term. The most well-known is a rogue congressman from North Alabama who recently made headlines (not in a good way) for encouraging insurrectionists on January 6. Congressman Mo Brooks, in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, told a mob of people, “Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” That mob then attacked the U.S. Capitol.

    I’m very careful not to call people stupid. Besides, Mo Brooks is far from stupid. He graduated from Duke with highest honors in economics followed by law school at Alabama. But he spouts stupid things. For another example, a few years ago he blamed the rise in sea level on rocks falling into the seas and taking up space in the ocean. Two weeks ago, he was one of just a handful of congressmen who voted against establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. He isn’t the type of guy other congressmen congregate around.   

    Mo Brooks’ saving grace with GOP voters is that he loves him some Donald Trump, and for the moment, the feeling is mutual. Trump’s endorsement of Brooks is very significant in a state that remains strongly supportive of the former president. So despite his flaws it shouldn’t surprise you to learn he is the favorite to win the GOP primary.

    If someone had told me a year ago that Mo Brooks might be the next U.S. Senator from Alabama, I would have just laughed. I still have a difficult time explaining to people how he continues getting reelected to Congress. Then again who would have ever thought Tommy Tuberville would defeat Jeff Sessions for the state’s other Senate seat.

    Other candidates running to replace Shelby include Lynda Blanchard, a former U.S. ambassador to Slovenia during the Trump administration, and Katie Boyd Britt, who just resigned as President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama to run.

    Blanchard, even with her millions, doesn’t stand a chance, having lost out on the Trump endorsement to Brooks, but Britt could be a viable alternative.

    Katie Britt appears to be sharp, capable, reasonable and is no stranger to Washington politics. She has a law degree from Alabama and prior to leading the BCA, she served as Chief of Staff to the man she hopes to replace, Senator Richard Shelby. She is originally from the Wiregrass and married to Wesley Britt, a former offensive tackle who played at Alabama followed by several years in the NFL. The couple resides in Montgomery with their two children.

    Another potential candidate being whispered about in tight political circles is Rob Riley, a Birmingham lawyer and son of former Governor Bob Riley. His entrance in the race would make things that much more entertaining but also more difficult for Britt, as they would likely compete for the same voters.

    Secretary of State John Merrill was just days from announcing his candidacy when he self-destructed a couple of months ago after it was exposed that he had an affair or two. Dothan businessman and former congressional candidate Jeff Coleman also gave it some thought until he couldn’t get anyone to return his phone calls.

    Back to Britt. I expect she will be well financed with the help of big and small business interests alike, not to mention the possibility of a campaign windfall if Shelby were to relinquish some of the millions in campaign contributions he has stashed away.

    I know that most of her votes cast in the Senate would be similar to those of Brooks; she is after all a Republican, but she is much more likely to possess the ability and political savvy to represent Alabama well and not embarrass the state on the national stage.

     I hope Katie Britt can run a campaign on issues that affect all Alabamians, one not riddled with Trump rhetoric. I hope she remains a true alternative to Brooks’ divisiveness. I don’t know if it’s a winning strategy, but it’s the way to earn my vote.