HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama Sen. Bill Holtzclaw’s announcement Tuesday that he will seek the U.S. House seat currently held by Mo Brooks means the four-term incumbent now has two primary challengers.
Brooks is being challenged on the Republican side by Holtzclaw and former U.S. Army Capt. Clayton Hinchman, who lost a leg in combat in Iraq.
Democrat Peter Joffrion, who served for several years as the city attorney for Huntsville, has also announced his candidacy.
Brooks’ challengers may have gained some confidence by Brooks’ showing in the Republican U.S. Senate primary Aug. 15. Brooks finished third in the primary, missing the runoff. He won his 5th Congressional District portion of the state, but with less than 50 percent of the vote.
WHNT News 19 political analyst Jess Brown said that performance surprised political watchers.
“I guess some people might look at the recent Senate election and decide that Congressman Brooks got 42 percent of the vote in his district, in a Republican primary, for another office of course, and … that didn’t show the kind of political muscle they expected him to have.”
Brown said he talked to several Republican operatives on the eve of the primary and they all expected Brooks to draw 60 percent of the vote in the 5th District. But Brown said that performance may not signal any political weakness.
“I don’t read the 42 percent, which is roughly what he got in his district, I don’t read the 42 percent as terribly soft. The truth is he was the victim of just a huge onslaught of negative advertising,” he said.
Brooks was the focus of many of the political attack ads run by U.S. Sen. Luther Strange’s campaign. Strange reporting spending more than $3 million in the primary.
Brown said Brooks may face a bigger challenge if corporate interests in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley decide they want a different approach to Washington from the 5th District representative. He said for about 50 years the Huntsville area has been represented by quietly-effective dealmakers who bring federal money back to the district.
“I think in general the corporate community of Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley had rather have a submarine in Washington, stylistically, than a battleship," Brown said.
Brooks is known nationally for taking consistently far-right conservative positions on a number of issues ranging from federal budget deficits to health care. He's found himself aligned with the Tea Party political movement in the past.
“Congressman Brooks has simply been more the battleship – above the water line, firing the 16-inch guns on network television about issues that sometimes don’t have a lot to do with bringing federal money to the Huntsville area,” Brown said.
Brown said the test will be whether the other announced candidates, or someone still waiting to announce a bid, will be able to actually raise money from local sources.
The 2018 primary elections are set for June.