Could June shooting give Alabama Sen. Brooks?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2017

“Rep. Mo Brooks gives harrowing account of Congressional shooting,” a headline on The Daily Beast read.

The Alabama Republican recounted standing on-deck to hit when he heard shots break out and hearing (Rep. Steve) Scalise scream that he’d been shot. Brooks said he’d hit the ground as the semi-automatic rifle continued firing, and when he heard a break in shots, he made a run for a plastic-wrapped batting cage and then to the first-base dugout to seek shelter. One staffer, whose name Brooks said he could not recall, was shot in the leg and the congressman said he took off his belt to apply a tourniquet above the wound …”

Brooks, according to The Beast, called CNN with the breathtaking tale not long after the shooting took place. It might be the smartest move he’s ever made, politically speaking.

Because if his account is harrowing to the average reader or viewer, the unintended consequence must have Sen. Luther Strange shaking in his boots.

In the three weeks since that shooting near D.C., Rep. Morris Jackson Brooks, who represents the Huntsville area in Congress, has climbed steadily in the polls predicting the outcome of Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate. What once was expected to be an easy win for Strange – or at best a Republican runoff between Strange and Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice – is looking more like a potential race between Moore and Brooks.

Politico reported last week that Brooks’ internal polling shows Moore leading the Republican primary field of nearly a dozen candidates with 31 percent. Strange is next at 23 percent, and Brooks has 21 percent. His numbers are climbing. Other candidates in the crowded field grouped below the 5 percent threshold.

Strange’s campaign has benefited from funding from the GOP establishment in Washington, which wants to keep him in place. But at home in Alabama, Moore’s popularity, coupled with Strange’s appointment to the seat by a governor the then-Alabama attorney general was allegedly investigating, has shaken up conventional wisdom. Add to that the coverage Brooks received after the shooting, and this race isn’t nearly as decided as it once looked.

Brooks, who will have to run for re-election as a Congressman next year if he doesn’t win the Senate seat, is said to be holding half of his $1 million campaign fund in reserve for that 2018 race, where he already has announced opposition. But if he manages to make the run-off, he might be tempted to spend it against Moore, and he might also be favored by the GOP establishment, which would improve his political position.

The flip side of that coin is that if Moore were to emerge the winner of the GOP nomination for Senate in the September runoff, the Democratic National Committee might send some of its money to the Democratic nominee, expected to be former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones of Birmingham.

Here in Alabama, where we have a governor, chief justice and attorney general who were not elected, we shouldn’t be surprised by the prospect of this unintended consequence.


Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.