Rep. Mo Brooks, a conservative firebrand and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump who has been chastised for comments he made prior to the attack on the US Capitol, entered the Alabama GOP primary field on Monday to succeed Sen. Richard Shelby.
At an event with former Trump advisor Stephen Miller, the north Alabama Republican declared his candidacy. In a Republican primary field that is expected to draw a variety of other candidates, he joins former Trump ambassador Lynda Blanchard.
Brooks portrayed himself as a soldier at his campaign kick-off, taking aim at both Democrats and “squishy” Republicans.
Brooks told an audience of several hundred people packed into a meeting hall of the Bullet and Barrel gun range in the northern city of Huntsville, “America can literally not tolerate senators who cower in their foxholes while the political battles are being fought.”
“I am a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, not the Republican surrender caucus. I don’t cut and run, as President Trump can attest. When things get tough, I stay strong,” Brooks said.
Miller was a driving force behind Trump’s attempts to limit immigration. He was widely regarded as the driving force behind the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies, having orchestrated the former president’s Muslim travel ban.
“Over the last four years, no one has had President Trump’s back more than Mo Brooks. Now I need you to protect him. As he endorsed Brooks, Miller said, “Your vote for Mo Brooks will allow him to carry on the America First agenda.”
Despite the fact that Miller’s involvement was clearly intended to connect Brooks to Trump, the former president has yet to comment on the election. Trump has been stingy with his endorsements so far, but he has made it clear that he plans to use his clout in the upcoming midterm elections. He officially endorsed a challenger to the Republican secretary of state, who declined to help reverse the November election results, on Monday.
Brooks, 66, has been chastised for saying at a rally before the Capitol riot that it was time to “start tearing down names and kicking asses.” Brooks explained that the slogan was meant to energise the audience for the next electoral cycle, but it was misinterpreted as condoning the violence that followed.
Outside the rally, more than two dozen people gathered to protest Miller’s presence and argue that Brooks does not represent Alabama. Some held signs that read, “Traitor Mo must go” and “Mo Brooks’ words incited abuse.”
“I believe he was attempting to incite a riot. “What happened was a riot,” said Catherine Hereford, 42, who added that Brooks was not solely to blame for the incident, but that his words added fuel to the flames.
Shelby revealed earlier this year that he will not seek reelection in 2022, igniting what is supposed to be a tumultuous GOP primary at a time when the national GOP is still trying to figure out where it wants to go after Trump’s exit.
Brooks was a five-term member of the House of Representatives, where he was a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus. He sits on two main committees for his north Alabama district: the Armed Services Committee and Science, Space, and Technology.
Cassandra Voutchas of Huntsville said she liked Brooks’ opposition to President Joe Biden’s win being certified and his views on the frontier. According to the daughter of a Greek refugee, immigration to the country should be conducted “properly.”
“He was the first to question the President’s vote, and as a result, he’s getting a lot of flak. Because of this, there are demonstrators out tonight. Brooks, however, is a “very good Christian man who loves this country and loves Alabama,” she said.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Shelby’s former chief of staff, Katie Boyd Britt, who now runs a powerful business lobby, have also been named as possible candidates.
In a state where Trump got 62 percent of the vote, Republican candidates are supposed to try to reassure primary voters that they are the legitimate flag bearers for Trump’s agenda. Former Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne predicted that the winner of the GOP primary would be whoever can persuade voters that they are the best successor to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda.
“They’re going to be very cautious. They’ll be the most real and efficient bearers of the Trump/MAGA flame, according to Byrne.
Someone paid for a sign outside the announcement noting that Brooks had opposed Trump before his 2016 victory, which is a possible indicator of how much Trump loyalty would factor into the campaign. Brooks served as the state chairman for Sen. Ted Cruz’s bid for re-election.
Support for Trump is “the table stakes” for Republicans seeking office in Alabama, according to David Mowery, a political strategist based in Alabama. Mowery, on the other hand, believes there is apprehension among establishment Republicans.
So far, no Democratic candidate has declared for the election.
Shelby voted well to the right, but he never adopted the bombastic, nationalist style that has driven Republicans like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“I think people are afraid that you’ll get someone who is more concerned with throwing bombs and getting their name in the paper than with doing what Shelby does, which is carry home the bacon and making sure Alabama is taken care of with any spending bill,” Mowery said.
Brooks and Miller, according to Wade Perry, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, are “evil for our country and our democracy,” according to a statement released Monday night.
“When there is no proof, good Americans don’t lie to their fellow citizens about made-up fantasies of election fraud. Good citizens and good Americans should not incite sedition or violence against our nation’s capital. “They should both be ashamed of themselves,” Perry said.