Republican firebrand seeks runoff spot in Ala. Senate race
Posted July 11
DAPHNE, Ala. — As U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks told it to young Republicans at a seafood restaurant on the marshy banks of Mobile Bay, the Washington "swamp critters" are trying to have their way in Alabama's Senate race.
Piggybacking on President Donald Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" — a jab at establishment politicians — he told them: "Well, in this race the swamp is fighting back, and I'm not their favorite candidate. I'm not getting those bazillions of dollars."
The 63-year-old member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus is running to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former Senate seat and is jockeying for a spot in an anticipated runoff after the Aug. 15 primary. Brooks said a recent poll showed him trailing incumbent Luther Strange, who was appointed to finish Sessions' term, and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who appeals to evangelicals who supported his losing battles over the public display of the Ten Commandments and gay marriage.
Kevin Spriggs met Brooks a few years ago on a trade association lobbying trip and considers him and Moore the most "anti-establishment" candidates. Brooks was hostile to the pleas for "government goodies," Spriggs said.
"I was actually shocked. To me it was impressive," said Spriggs, who owns gas stations and motels in southern Alabama.
But it's Strange that Brooks has found himself sparring with — over who more closely aligns with Trump. Brooks has been in office four terms, but Strange has the backing of a super political action committee tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Brooks' first campaign ad leaned heavily on Trump's promises: He pledged to read the Bible on the Senate floor to filibuster spending bills until funding is secured for the president's proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
It's a clear attempt to bat away attacks from Strange, who has pointed to Brooks' previous criticism of Trump. Brooks, who was Ted Cruz's state campaign chairman, called Trump a "serial adulterer." Mailers sent by Strange's campaign used a quote from Brooks about American's facing "tough votes in November" ahead to suggest he had difficulty choosing between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton after Trump became the GOP nominee.
Brooks has had solid conservative backing for years. Heritage Action, an arm on the hardline conservative Heritage Foundation, gives Brooks a 94 percent rating. Brooks has also picked up endorsements from well-known conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
He defended his past criticisms of Trump saying he did all he "could honorably do" for the Texas senator but supported Trump after he "steamrolled us."
Now, he believes those attack ads are a sign of momentum for his campaign, that his opponents are worried. He still has work to do to build name recognition outside his home base in the northern part of the state.
"The biggest handicap is I don't have the millions upon millions upon millions of dollars that the special interest groups have bestowed upon the favorite candidate," Brooks said.
The last fundraising reports filed in April show Brooks had a little over $1 million, money left over from House races. By comparison, the Senate Leadership Fund in May said it reserved a $2.6 million television ad buy on behalf of Strange.
Brooks made the rounds on cable TV news last month because he was part of the Republican congressional baseball team sprayed with bullets outside Washington, critically injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Police later told Brooks he was on a list of six names carried by the gunman.
While at the southern Alabama gathering, Brooks quipped to the Baldwin County Young Republicans that the shooting could have been deadlier had the gunman not shot his rifle from the hip: "Fortunately, this guy was a liberal and didn't know how to use a gun."