Every time U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks is in the news, I remember my first encounter with the congressman for Alabama’s fifth congressional district, which came in 2006.
I was the college newspaper editor at the University of South Alabama (back when it was in print). The then-College Republicans chair Jennifer Edwards was begging people to come to an event featuring Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks. He was then a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.
Brooks was coming all the way down from Huntsville and did not want to speak to an empty room, so Edwards worked the campus and offered free pizza to those who would come. Thirty or so showed for the meeting, including a few political candidates, enough to fill the room.
My reaction to his speech that night was, “this is Alabama’s Ron Paul.” He had an approach to state government steeped in conservative ideology that did not seem practical in my early-on jaded view of Alabama politics.
However, Brooks won the room over, which was only about half actual College Republicans that evening.
Apparently, he left an impression. The next day, I saw a self-professed liberal officer of South Alabama’s SGA putting out “Brooks for Lieutenant Governor” signs along Old Shell Road.
The important lesson from that experience was that if you can explain conservative ideology coherently and logically in a forum with open minds, you can win people over. That is not easy to find in 2020.
Brooks went on to finish third behind eventual nominee Luther Strange and former State Treasurer George Wallace Jr. Strange lost to Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. by 1.5 percent of the vote later in that year’s general election.
Brooks would face Strange again in a special election Republican primary for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. Brooks finished behind former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Strange.
Strange had gotten President Donald Trump’s 11th-hour endorsement headed into the primary. That was enough to push him past Brooks. However, Strange would lose the GOP runoff to Moore by nine points, and, well, you probably remember what happened next.
In 2019, Brooks flirted with a run for U.S. Senate, but decided against it when he determined there was no way to guarantee Trump wouldn’t endorse one of his opponents and cost him a safe seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A lot has changed in Alabama politics since Brooks’ 2017 bid. Four years of Donald Trump will do that. Alabama Republicans liked the idea of an outsider so much, they picked former football coach Tommy Tuberville as their nominee, paving the way for his successful U.S. Senate run.
Then Trump went on to lose the presidential election to Joe Biden, or so it seems. Whether you believe Trump lost or not is not the most relevant storyline that could impact Alabama. It is what Brooks is willing to do, which is challenge the results of the Electoral College when Congress meets for a joint session on January 6 to certify the tallies.
To succeed, Brooks needs one member of the U.S. House of Representatives, presumably himself, and one member of the U.S. Senate.
He contends there was not just anecdotal evidence of election fraud, but the rules of elections held by some of the states were unconstitutional because they were changed by governors or courts and not by the state legislatures, as stated in the U.S. Constitution.
It is a longshot to overturn the Electoral College. However, it has earned Brooks praise from Trump, who remains the most popular politician in Alabama.
There is probably going to be a U.S. Senate seat up in 2022. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby is hinting he will not seek a seventh term in the Senate and will wind down what will be a 44-year career as both a congressman and senator on Capitol Hill.
Does Brooks’ loyalty to Trump in the late hours of his presidency make him a potential frontrunner? Would Trump endorse and campaign for Brooks in 2022?
Trump has signaled he would support U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., should he primary challenge incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia in 2022. He has done the same for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his former press secretary, who is considering a run for Arkansas governor.
After being spoiled by Shelby as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alabama’s business community would likely put up a well-funded candidate to oppose Brooks. The same would apply for the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA).
They did as much in Brooks’ Republican primary in 2020.
How did that work out? Brooks, who was the only incumbent not endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama and was opposed by ALFA and the sitting speaker of the Alabama House, and won by nearly 50 points.
Has championing the “Stop the Steal” cause given a lift to Mo Brooks’ political stock? Probably. While he is bulletproof north of the Tennessee River, the question is, can he win anywhere else in the state?
Brooks’ 2006 and 2017 statewide struggles seemed to be because of a lack of name ID outside the Huntsville media market. That may change in a hurry over the next few weeks.
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