Mo Brooks comes to Alabama's coast, woos Pittman supporters

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Brooks was in Mobile Friday encouraging voters of GOP candidates outside the 'top three' to support his candidacy on

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks on Friday encouraged supporters of GOP Senate candidates outside the "top three" to come over to his side.

The announcement occurred on the banks of the Mobile River, and in the backyard of state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, who is polling around 7 percent heading into Tuesday's primary in Alabama's special election for the U.S. Senate.

Brooks did not name Pittman by name, but he said that voters who are inclined to support someone outside of himself, Sen. Luther Strange and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, should reconsider.

"Any vote of those lower six candidates is, in effect, a vote to help Luther Strange to become the Republican nominee even though that is not what you want," said Brooks, the Huntsville area congressman who will also be campaigning Saturday in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

"Suffice to say, there are six second-tier candidates and the three who are at the top," Brooks said. "There is a huge gap between the top tier and the lower tier. It's not that there is anything wrong with the people in the bottom tier, those six candidates. They just have not broken through."

Brooks said that recent polling suggests that lower-tier candidates enjoy a collective 45 percent share of support. If some of those voters split off and support his candidacy, they can keep Strange from advancing to a potential Sept. 26 runoff.

Most polling indicates that Moore leads the field, with Brooks and Strange locked in a battle for second. The top two vote-getters Tuesday will meet in a runoff, assuming that neither wins an outright majority.

"If you want to clean up the corruption in government and the unethical conduct that put us in this position of having a special election, and if you want to drain the swamp and not support the swamp's candidate, we need to coalesce around the candidate most likely to make the runoff with Roy Moore," said Brooks. "The polling suggests I'm the candidate who can get past Luther Strange."

Pittman's campaign wasn't pleased with Brooks' statement. A poll released Thursday by Montgomery-based Cygnal, had Moore at 31 percent support, Strange at 23 percent and Brooks at 18 percent. Pittman was fourth at 7 percent, while other candidates were around 2 percent.

"I am not surprised that a career politician like Mo Brooks is out pandering to voters in south Alabama, a group he's never done anything for," said Pittman in a statement. "The fact is Mo sees no path to the runoff for himself. There is a large segment of undecided voters in this election, and our campaign is busy right now driving our message to those people and working to win. Rather than holding poorly attended press conferences, we will continue to focus on our own strategy.  Our message is simple: I've been very effective as a businessman serving in office. Voters should know that they do have a real choice this Tuesday, August 15."

Steve Flowers, an author and political analyst whose weekly column about Alabama politics appears in more than 60 newspapers around the state, said he believes Pittman could do well during Tuesday's primary. Pittman is the only Republican candidate in the field who is from coastal Alabama.

"Trip Pittman is going to surprise people," said Flowers. "My perception is the sense that Pittman gets the hometown voters from Mobile and Baldwin counties and that will propel him ... If he had a little bit more money, he'd really surprise people in this race."

Brooks, though, said he believes any avenue that assists in Strange advancing to a runoff will empower Democrats. Alabama hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than a decade.

Brooks, whose campaign has been blasted by the well-funded Strange campaign, said he's been victimized by a "blister of scorched-earth, carpet bombing" attacks.

The Strange camp has painted Brooks as a "Never Trumper" and for being critical in the past of President Trump. Brooks, who supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign, has said he is a supporter of Trump's agenda during the campaign trail.

Shana Teehan, spokeswoman with Strange's campaign, said Brooks has "no room to complain about his own words being used against him" in the campaign ads.

"Voters in Mobile and Baldwin counties as well as throughout the state remember that it was Congressman Brooks who ran perhaps the nastiest campaign against President Trump we have ever seen here in Alabama," said Teehan.

Brooks declined to say whether he'd endorse Strange if the senator advances to the general election, scheduled for Dec. 12.  "I'll be quite frank," Brooks said. "Luther Strange has made it more difficult for Luther Strange, Roy Moore or Mo Brooks to win that general election because of the negative approach he's used throughout this campaign."

This story was updated at 12:11 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, to include comments from Sen. Luther Strange's spokeswoman.

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Article Mo Brooks comes to Alabama's coast, woos Pittman supporters compiled by www.al.com