MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks over any other Republican contenders in Alabama's 2022 Senate race, siding with the conservative firebrand who whipped up the crowd before the Capitol riot in January.
Trump announced his support in a statement shared by the Brooks campaign for the seat being vacated by six-term Sen. Richard Shelby. The former president's backing is an important prize ahead of next year's all-important GOP primary in a state where Trump won 62% of the vote in 2020.
“Few Republicans have as much COURAGE and FIGHT as Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks,” Trump said in the statement, adding that Brooks “will stand up for America First no matter what obstacles the Fake News Media, RINOs, or Socialist Democrats may place in his path.”
When Shelby, 86, announced that he wouldn't seek reelection to the seat he has held since 1987, he ignited what is expected to be a messy GOP primary at a time when the national Republican Party is trying to chart a path after Trump’s departure. The primary is set for May 24 of 2022.
Brooks already faces Trump ambassador Lynda Blanchard in the primary. Other potential candidates include Shelby’s former chief of staff, Katie Boyd Britt, who now heads an influential business lobby.
“I ask all Alabamians who share our America First vision to heed and honor President Trump’s request by joining our campaign,” Brooks said.
Brooks, 66, a five-term congressman and founder of the Conservative Freedom Caucus, has become a staunch Trump ally. He was fiercely criticized for telling a rally preceding the Jan. 6 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 ensued.
Blanchard, a businesswoman who was Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia, said Wednesday that she's remaining in the race and is steadfast in her commitment to Trump.
“I have been unwavering in my support of President Trump since the day he came down the escalator in June 2015. He is the greatest President of my lifetime, and I intend to go to Washington as the United States Senator from Alabama to represent the America First agenda that President Trump championed every day,” Blanchard said.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill had been considering a run, but announced Wednesday that he would not seek any office in 2022.