Alabama Senate:
Primary Now Competitive

Former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 16, 2021 — For the most part, early polling has given Alabama US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) a big lead in his open Senate Republican primary race, but a series of later surveys reveal a major change on the ballot test.

According to the new McLaughlin & Associates survey of the Alabama Republican electorate, Rep. Brooks’ lead has dropped to single-digit points over former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, with business owner and military veteran Michael Durant, a relative newcomer to the race, also making his presence felt. An earlier unrelated poll actually found Britt posting a slight edge over the field.

The McLaughlin study (Dec. 6-9; 500 likely Alabama Republican primary voters; 80 percent self-identified Republicans; 20 percent non-Republicans who say they will vote in the Republican primary, live interview) projects Rep. Brooks to be holding a 31-26-17 percent advantage over Britt, who is also a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), and Durant. In a troubling sign for Brooks, a hypothetical runoff contest between the congressman and Britt fell the latter candidate’s way on a 39-37 percent count.

Before November, Brooks held huge polling leads — from 23 to 43 points in surveys conducted during the August through October period. The McLaughlin poll seems to reinforce a developing trend that the Strategy Group and the Cygnal polling organization detected in November polling.

Cygnal (Nov. 3-4; 650 likely Alabama Republican primary voters, text, interactive voice response, email), polling for the Alabama Conservatives Fund, actually saw Britt, for the first time, taking a slight 24-22-9 percent lead over Rep. Brooks and Durant.

The Strategy Group (Nov. 1-4; 784 likely Alabama Republican primary voters; live interview and interactive voice response system) found the Brooks lead over Britt to be only 28-23 percent. The SG poll was conducted largely as an issue survey for the Alabama House Republican Caucus, but they asked one question to test a Brooks-Britt isolated Senate primary, which could be a precursor to a runoff contest.

The Alabama race is another where former President Donald Trump has come out early with an endorsement. His support helped Rep. Brooks build a large early lead, but the ex-president will have to come more to the forefront if his candidate is to reverse the latest trend.

The McLaughlin survey asked questions designed to better isolate what drives large segments of this particular Alabama Republican polling sample.

A positive for Britt was the response to the question about whether the respondents would “favor a candidate who has been in elected office for almost four decades and wants to bring that experience to the US Senate” (Brooks) or one who “is a political outsider who wants to change the way things are done in the US Senate (Britt). Not surprisingly, the respondents favored Britt’s latter profile by a 69-13 percent margin.

In Brooks’ favor was the question about whether the respondents favored a candidate who supports a “traditional and mainstream Republican policy and issue agenda”, or one who “supports Donald Trump’s issue agenda.” Again, not surprisingly, the sample cell broke 64-26 percent for the candidate supporting the Trump issue agenda.

The Trump endorsement question and whether the respondent would vote for a candidate simply because the former president had endorsed the person resulted in a weaker response.

A total of 19 percent of the respondents said they would vote for a candidate because of the Trump endorsement. Conversely, almost six percent said they would vote against such a candidate for the same reason. For most, however, it appears the Trump endorsement is not a deciding factor. A total of 38 percent said they would keep an “open mind” about supporting the Trump endorsed candidate, while an additional 33 percent said the Trump endorsement has no impact upon their vote.

With Britt posting strong end of September fundraising totals ($3.7 million raised as compared to Brooks’ $1.7 million), Sen. Shelby committing to spend and additional $5 million in an independent expenditure to help her, and polling already getting closer, Katie Britt has positioned herself well for the coming campaign. Rep. Brooks may still have an advantage, but the gap between the two has clearly closed.

The Alabama candidate filing deadline is Jan. 28 for the May 24 primary. If no candidate receives majority support in the first election, a subsequent runoff contest will be conducted between the top two finishers on June 21. The only announced Democratic candidate is former Brighton mayor, Brandaun Dean.

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