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Katie Britt’s campaign is a lesson for conservatives nationwide

By Jake Curtis

Last week Katie Britt scored a decisive victory in the Alabama Republican Senate primary.  In the Trumpiest of states, Britt showed that it’s still possible to articulate a conservative message, even an “America First” message, while remaining optimistic about the American future our children and grandchildren will inherit.  Her victory provides important lessons for conservatives across the country.

This spring I spent almost three months in Alabama for military training, travelling the “River Region” with my family on the weekends.  With multiple trainings over the last two years, Alabama has become a home away from home.  It’s a wonderful state with wonderful people – conservative people.  Traditional values are ingrained in the culture; it’s one of the reasons Alabama in many ways became ground zero for the ascendancy of President Trump.  For this reason, it would seem to have been the unlikeliest of places for somebody like Britt to succeed.  But succeed she has.

Rep. Mo Brooks entered the race in 2021 with an endorsement from President Trump and all of the momentum.  When President Trump pulled his Brooks endorsement in March of this year (for daring to believe that we should put the 2020 election behind us), it allowed for the rise of businessman and Army-veteran Mike Durant.  A late-March poll showed Durant with a 10-point lead over Britt, with Brooks tumbling to a distant third.  The only problem for Durant was that he was unwilling to debate his opponents.  Beginning in April Britt began her steady climb.  By mid-May the RCP average showed Britt with a 6-point lead and she bested Brooks by almost 16 points in the May primary.  Failing to reach 50% in the primary, Britt was forced into a one-on-one run-off with Brooks.  Watching from down the road in Florida, President Trump saw Britt had all of the momentum and endorsed.  Alabamians awarded Britt with a nearly 30-point run-off victory, with the fall general as the only thing standing between Britt and a seat in the U.S. Senate.

As the GOP continues to muddle through its post-Trump identity crisis, there are three key takeaways from the Britt win that party leaders should take note of.  First, the quality of candidates still matters.  While her older primary opponents ran lackluster campaigns, the energetic Britt barnstormed across the state.  Born and raised in Alabama with strong ties to conservative leaders from her days as Chief of Staff to Senator Shelby as well as the president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, Britt left little doubt in the minds of voters that she is up for the job.  Married to Alabama football standout Wesley Britt and what appears to be the proud mother of two, she exuded the leadership qualities and self-awareness her two primary opponents seemed to lack.

Second, along those lines, competency may actually be making a comeback.  Watching Congressional “leaders” like Madison Cawthorn crash and burn, Alabama seems to have learned its lesson from its ill-fated decision to nominate Roy Moore for U.S. Senate in 2017.  Instead of nominating the bombastic Brooks or the unknown Durant, Alabama made a wise decision in nominating the former staffer, lawyer and business leader.  While staffers don’t always make good leaders (many don’t) and chamber executives can at times come off as tone deaf, Alabama sees the leadership potential in Britt.  And that potential is based on her already established bona fides as a competent policy and legal leader.  Throughout the campaign she focused on specific policy proposals, including an ”Alabama-first” energy independence policy.  In addition, she has been an outspoken voice on the need to address China’s aggressive machinations in the South Pacific.  At a time when some in the populist wing of the party simply want the loudest and most provocative “fighter,” Alabama GOP voters may have just sent a clear message – fighting for conservative principles does not require a rhetorical flamethrower.

Finally, and most importantly, a hopeful and even optimistic outlook is often still desirable in the minds of voters.  In the reddest of Trump states in the deep south, Britt’s relentlessly upbeat message prevailed over the often angry and divisive theme of the Brooks campaign.  To be clear – there is nothing watered down about the Britt message.  Unapologetically pro-life, pro-family, pro-border security, and anti-woke, Britt’s message resonated with voters without being angry about it.  While the last five years have certainly produced a fair number of conservative caricatures (I better watch out lest Eric Greitens comes after me during one of his “RINO hunts”), it has also produced happy warriors that any wing of the Republican Party should easily be willing to embrace.  The GOP bench is deep – Britt, Senators Tim Scott and Tom Cotton, Governors DeSantis and Youngkin – all represent a next wave of conservative leaders that offer a bold vision for a more conservative America, just minus the vitriol.  Strong conservative voices that should not be overlooked also remain from the bruising 2016 primary like Senators Cruz and Rubio.  These leaders all share an optimistic vision for America – that all is not lost and her best days may still be ahead.  As a parent or grandparent, that positive message will still often resonate over the alternative of gloom and despair.

It may seem like most days the country is in a downward spiral.  And by any number of metrics it is.  But the victory by Britt showed that a positive message focused on a competent governing philosophy can unite disparate wings of the party even in the most conservative of states.  We are not obligated to match the dour national mood with equally dour, or even angry, messaging.  As a conservative movement, let’s commit to supporting quality and competent candidates like Britt who embrace a positive message of American greatness.

Jake Curtis is a Milwaukee lawyer and officer in the Wisconsin Air National Guard and formerly served as a Department Chief Legal Counsel in the Walker Administration as well as an Associate Counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

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1 thought on “Katie Britt’s campaign is a lesson for conservatives nationwide

  • The Katie Britt victory in the Republican primaries in Alabama give us a welcome arrival of a conservative with a positive message. She has common sense without divisive, angry rhetoric. We need more like her.

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