(Headline USA) Former president Donald Trump, the de facto kingmaker of the GOP, faced one of his first post-presidency political dilemmas as Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., entered the race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. He is the second pro-Trump candidate to do so.
“America’s status as the greatest nation in world history is at risk. And it’s at risk from those within our country,” Brooks told people packed into a meeting hall of a gun range in the northern city of Huntsville.
Later, he added, “We are a beacon of freedom and liberty for the world, and we need to stay that way.”
Brooks, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, was among those who joined Trump at the Jan. 6 Save America Rally, after which dozens of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol during the joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote in favor of Democrat candidate Joe Biden.
The north Alabama Republican announced his entry into the race at an event with former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who has remained active as an adviser for many Republicans since departing the White House after Biden unraveled his successful immigration reform.
“Nobody has had President Trump’s back more over the last four years than Mo Brooks. Now I need you to have his back,” Miller said as he introduced Brooks.
Brooks joins former Croatia ambassador Lynda Blanchard in a primary field that is expected to attract a number of other hopefuls.
Although the victor to emerge in the GOP primary will enter the race as the favored winner, Republicans take nothing for granted following the dual losses in Georgia, and only four years since Democrat Doug Jones prevailed in the special election to replace Jeff Sessions after he became Trump’s attorney general.
That race was framed as an early mandate on Trump, who endorsed incumbent Luther Strange. However, Strange wound up losing the primary to Judge Roy Moore, who brought too much baggage into the race as Democrats mercilessly attacked both his record and an alleged sexual scandal.
This time around, Trump judiciously withheld his endorsement—for now—although his strong rapport with Brooks likely give him the edge, despite Blanchard’s recent visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Brooks, 66, has come under attack from leftist members of Congress and the media for telling the rally that preceded the Capitol riot that it was time to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Brooks said the phrase was intended to fire up the crowd for the next election cycle and is being misconstrued as advocating the violence that followed.
Brooks has served five terms in the House, where the former prosecutor joined the conservative Freedom Caucus. He serves on the Armed Services Committee and Science, Space, and Technology, two important committees for his north Alabama district.
“America cannot afford senators who cower in their foxholes,” Brooks said. He added, “As President Trump can vouch, I don’t cut and run. I stand strong when the going gets tough.”
Republican former Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama said the winner of the GOP primary will likely be whoever can convince voters they are the best heir to Trump and his “Make America Great Again” agenda.
“They are going to be very conservative. They are going to be the most genuine, most effective carrier of the Trump/MAGA flame,” Byrne said.
David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant, said support for Trump is “the table stakes”—a requirement to get in the game for Republicans seeking office in Alabama. However, Mowery said he thinks there is trepidation among establishment Republicans.
“I think people are worried that you are going to get someone that’s more concerned about throwing bombs and seeing their name in the paper then you are somebody who does what Shelby does and that is bring home the bacon and make sure Alabama is taken care of in every spending bill,” Mowery said.
Others sometimes mentioned as potential candidates are Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Shelby’s former chief of staff, Katie Boyd Britt, who now heads an influential business lobby.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press