At a rally of Republicans in Alabama last year, Katie Britt and her husband strategically positioned themselves at the end of a receiving line to shake hands with former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms Britt, a lawyer and former chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby, had recently announced her campaign to fill the seat vacated by her former boss, who is retiring. Mr Trump had already endorsed his opponent, Rep. Mo Brooks – but the pair hoped to sow doubt in Mr Trump’s mind, according to four people familiar with the meeting.
As the couple greeted Mr. Trump, Ms. Britt’s husband, Wesley Britt – a solid retired NFL lineman – mentioned to the former president that he once played for the Nova Scotia Patriots. England. “The only time you met me I think I was wrapped in a towel in the Patriots locker room,” Mr. Britt reportedly told Mr. Trump, who found it hilarious and replied that Robert K. Kraft, the team’s billionaire owner, “likes me a lot.”
From then on, Ms Britt positioned herself as a formidable contender with savvy political skills who constantly tried to convince Mr Trump that she instead deserved his endorsement.
In March, Mr Trump gave Ms Britt half of what she wanted, withdrawing his endorsement of Mr Brooks – at this point far behind in the polls – because, he said, the member of the Far-right Congress had “awakened”. Then this month, when Ms Britt was clearly on course to win, the former president backed her, apparently in a bid to inflate her endorsement record.
Ten months after her brief exchange with Mr Trump last August, Ms Britt claimed victory in the Republican primary run-off for the open Alabama Senate seat on Tuesday, capping a hard-fought campaign for her party’s nomination against Mr. Brooks. In a deeply conservative state, she is almost guaranteed to win the general election in November.
Ms. Britt is also set to make history as the first woman from Alabama to be elected to the Senate. His Democratic opponent is a pastor, Will Boyd, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate, House and Lieutenant Governor.
Shortly after the polls closed on Tuesday, Mr Shelby, who has known Ms Britt from when she was an intern in his office, said he was delighted for her.
“She’s an exceptional person – she’s got the brains, the drive and the compassion,” he said.
Ms Britt, 40, is seen as part of a younger generation of pro-Trump Republicans, and her husband’s banter with Mr Trump was viewed by those familiar with the encounter as a shrewd decision that proved essential to his appointment.
Ms. Britt entered the primary with little name recognition and long odds against Mr. Brooks, who boasted more than a decade of experience in the House and won the support of Mr. Trump after annoying the crowd at the former president’s rally ahead of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
But Mr Trump rescinded his support for Mr Brooks in March as Mr Brooks struggled to gain traction under a flurry of attack ads and criticism of his decision to urge an audience at a rally Trump to leave the 2020 election behind. “Katie Britt, on the other hand, is America’s first fearless warrior,” Mr. Trump said in a statement this month supporting Ms. Britt.
That decision didn’t completely wipe out Mr. Brooks, who still managed to clinch a second-place finish in the Alabama primary on May 24, garnering 29% of the vote. Ms Britt got 45%, short of the majority that would have avoided a runoff between the top two voters.
Ms Britt ran as an ‘Alabama First’ candidate, playing on Mr Trump’s ‘America First’ presidential campaign slogan, and centered her race on her Christian faith, strict border enforcement policies and its links with the business world.
As an aide to Mr. Shelby, one of the most prominent members of the Senate, she worked on some of his signature issues, including a sweeping Republican package of tax cuts in 2017, the confirmation of conservative justices and a push for a border wall along the United States. -Mexican border.
She recently served as the head of the Business Council of Alabama, a powerful lobby group, and led a “Keep Alabama Open” campaign in November 2020 against coronavirus pandemic restrictions that forced non-essential businesses to close or to limit services. She also opened up the council’s resources, usually reserved for paying members, to all small businesses amid the health crisis.
In politics, Ms. Britt and Mr. Brooks had ideological differences: he represented a more aggressive form of arch-conservatism as a founding member of the Freedom Caucus while Ms. Britt, like Mr. Shelby, was seen as more focused on economic development. But in oratorical style, she echoed hard-right talking points that have become common messages within the Republican Party.
“When I look at what’s happening in Washington, I don’t recognize our country,” Ms Britt said in a video introducing herself to voters. “Leftists are attacking our religious freedoms and advancing a socialist agenda. In Joe Biden’s America, people can make more money staying home than they can make working.
The campaigns and supporters of Ms Britt, Mr Brooks and a third leading competitor in the race, Mike Durant, a former army pilot, have spent millions on negative publicity.
Mr Brooks and his supporters have tried to portray Ms Britt as a lobbyist and a RINO – a favorite insult used by Trump supporters for politicians they believe to be Republicans in name only.
She hit back with attacks describing Mr Brooks as a career politician. It also helped that Mr Brooks had a poor showing at Mr Trump’s rally in Alabama last August, just after Ms Britt began her low-key campaign to sway the former president to his cause. What started as an enthusiastic response for Mr Brooks that evening turned into boos as he urged onlookers to put the 2020 presidential election behind them and focus on 2022 and 2024.
Mr Trump called him back on stage for a second appearance, calling him “a fearless warrior for your sacred right to vote”.
Later, when the former president took back his endorsement of Mr Brooks, he said the congressman had made a “horrible mistake” with his comments at that fateful rally.