Katie Britt wins election to the U.S. Senate

U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt talks to the media after voting at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt talks to the media after voting at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
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Republican Katie Britt won election to the U.S. Senate Tuesday night, defeating Democratic nominee Will Boyd and Libertarian John Sophocleus in the race for the open seat.

The Associated Press called the race for Britt, a former Business Council of Alabama president and CEO, shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m.

Britt is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, and will be the third woman from Alabama to serve in the chamber.

The win for Britt followed nearly two years of campaigning that started with a focus on Alabama but eventually drifted into national issues and culture war offensives that appeal to Republican base voters.

The drift came amid a scorched-earth Republican primary, where Britt faced U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville and Huntsville business owner Mike Durant. Brooks went into the primary campaign with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement; Durant actively sought it, and all three campaigns pledged loyalty to Trump while attacking Biden.

Brooks was unable to turn Trump's backing into a commanding advantage, and the primary became a battle royale. Britt enjoyed the backing of outgoing U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, for whom she worked as chief of staff, and most of the state Republican establishment. Her campaign largely focused on attacks on President Joe Biden, her support for abortion restrictions, and discussions of issues like the border wall and bans on transgender youth playing sports in public schools.

Trump eventually dropped his endorsement of Brooks. Britt and Brooks ultimately advanced to the runoff, where Britt won easily thanks to solid support in the Wiregrass, where she was born and raised. The contest left lingering bad feelings. Durant refused to endorse either candidate in the runoff. In his runoff concession speech, Brooks called Britt a “Democrat.”

Boyd, the actual Democrat in the race, stressed his support for infrastructure projects as a way of bringing well-paying manufacturing jobs to Alabama. He also strongly endorsed the Build Back Better Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, noting that the latter created incentives for companies building electric vehicles and cars to come to Alabama.

Boyd said he was personally opposed to abortion but supported abortion rights, and said he would vote to codify Roe v. Wade in federal law. He also said he would work to create federal incentives to encourage the state to expand Medicaid.

Sophocleus, who ran as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for governor in 2002, said he would work to reduce federal spending on education programs, arguing it should be handled by the state, and wanted to replace trade agreements with a single uniform tariff. Sophocleus also supports legalizing marijuana. On abortion, Sophocleus said he would oppose any federal effort to restrict or protect access to the procedure, saying states should determine that.

Through Oct. 19, Britt spent $9 million on the race, according to the Federal Election Commission. Boyd spent $102,000. Sophocleus did not report spending money on the race.

The two Alabama women who served in the Senate before Britt were both appointed to the position by Alabama governors. Dixie Bibb Graves served for nearly five months in 1937 and 1938 after being appointed by her husband, Gov. Bibb Graves. Gov. George Wallace appointed Maryon Allen to the seat held by her husband, Sen. Jim Allen, after Allen died in 1978. Allen sought election to the seat in her own right, but was defeated in a runoff for the Democratic nomination later that year.

Brian Lyman covers politics and state government for the Montgomery Advertiser. Contact him at 334-240-0185 or blyman@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Katie Britt wins election to the U.S. Senate