HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Longtime Alabama U.S. Senator Richard Shelby’s announcement last year that he would not seek another term set off a scramble to replace him — including a Republican primary that saw nearly 30 million dollars in spending.
But now the race to succeed him is down to just two major candidates.
Shelby’s preferred choice – his former top aide Katie Britt – won the Republican primary runoff Tuesday, defeating Huntsville-area U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks. Britt is now set to face Democrat Will Boyd in the November election.
Britt has not held political office, but that didn’t seem to bother voters Tuesday.
The most recent News 19 poll, in cooperation with The Hill and Emerson College taken eight days before Tuesday’s vote, found Britt at 50% and Brooks at 33%, with a 17% bloc of undecided voters. But Tuesday, Britt did much better than that, winning with 63 percent of the vote.
The candidates both spoke to supporters last night, offering starkly different messages.
“We are sending to Washington DC the exact opposite of what we need in the US Senate,” Brooks told supporters in Huntsville. “But the voters have spoken, they might not have spoken wisely, they may have been seduced by brazenly false advertising, but nonetheless they have spoken and I respect their will. Now another loser could be myself and our campaign, I reject that. By golly we did what we could do for our country, against virtually overwhelming odds, overwhelming financial odds more than anything else.”
Britt, who celebrated with supporters in Montgomery, said she listened to voters.
“This is for you, what I want you to know, all the incredible people that we have met across this state, you have shared with us your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your concerns, your challenges, and your opportunities,” Britt said. “Too often we have politicians come down and lecture us, instead of listen. And what I want you to know is I hear you.”
The runoff saw a number of key differences in comparison to the May 24 primary. Brooks won five counties in the primary, Blount, Limestone, Madison, Morgan and Shelby. Tuesday, his only winning margin was in Shelby County.
Britt defeated Brooks in his home county of Madison, 51% to 48%. Voter turnout was 23% for the primary, but just 12.7% for the runoff, a difference of 245,000 fewer voters in the Senate race.
Final campaign reports for the race haven’t been submitted, but data through early June shows Britt spent at least $6 million and Brooks spent $3.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Campaign finance watchdog, opensecrets.org reports Britt had at least $8.5 spent by outside groups on her behalf, while Brooks had at least $3 million from outside groups.