By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Rumors of Mike Durant’s entrance into the 2022 Alabama Senate race began more than a month ago. Inside Alabama Politics first reported on his likely announcement on Oct. 7, and two weeks later he was officially in the race.
It’s a relatively late entry into the race. Frontrunner Mo Brooks announced in March. Katie Britt, who has been the most serious challenger to Brooks, announced in June. The field seemed settled enough that rumors now swirl about how other candidates might withdraw to run for something else.
The natural question that every Alabama politico has been asking these last few weeks is “how serious is this guy?”
According to a campaign memo obtained by Alabama Daily News, pretty serious.
The memo outlines a seasoned campaign team, both from Alabama and Washington, D.C.
As IAP previously speculated, Jamestown Associates has signed on for general consulting and media. Jamestown is a highly sought after firm that has done exceptional work for Republican candidates going back to the Tea Party days. Specifically, Jon Kohan will be general consultant. He is known from his successful work in the Senate races of Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Braun of Indiana. Barney Keller, also of Jamestown, will handle media on the race.
Strategic Impact has signed on for an advisory role as well as the mail vendor. They come with both a DC and Alabama connection: Founder Brad Shattuck is based in Washington and Director Scott Stone is based in Birmingham. Shattuck has consulted on several Alabama races recently, including Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Congressman Jerry Carl and Secretary of State John Merrill. Stone has worked in Alabama Politics for more than 15 years, managing statewide court races and being responsible for the House Republicans 2018 reelection campaign.
B.J. Martino of the Tarrance Group has been brought on for polling. A veteran in the Republican polling industry, he has worked in more than 30 statewide campaigns as well as many congressional campaigns.
Finally, TAG Strategies has signed on to do the campaign’s fundraising and digital efforts. TAG is unique in that it offers both high-dollar fundraising services and the smaller-dollar online fundraising that has become an important staple of modern campaigns.
Certainly the team Durant has assembled is serious.
The other natural question politicos have been asking is, “what’s his lane in this race?”
In his announcement materials, Durant leans heavily on his “Black Hawk Down” story and labels himself as a “Pro-Trump conservative.” But setting aside his admirable back story, almost every Republican calls themselves a pro-Trump conservative.
The memo offers more detail on where the campaign sees Durant’s candidacy amid the current field, including his likely lines of attack against opponents.
It’s clear that Britt is the primary target in Durant’s sights, or at least the most immediate one. The memo mentions her four times labeling her as an “insider” and questioning the spending power of her field-leading $3.5 million in fundraising.
But Durant won’t pull punches on Brooks, according to the memo. In fact, his plan of attack on Brooks is much more specific and honed. The memo calls Brooks a “career politician” who will “flounder against Mike Durant who will hold him accountable for his ‘defund the troops’ record. It points to three votes – one on a proposal to pullout of Afghanistan in 2020 and two votes related to the Iraq/Syria/ISIS conflict – as “defund(ing) the troops.”
The last question Alabama politicos are asking about Durant is whether or not he will truly commit – and spend – the resources necessary to compete in the race. The campaign memo labels Durant as a “self funder,” and it is widely known that his defense contracting business has been lucrative. But we’ve heard that before. Former Ambassador Lynda Blanchard committed $5 million to her Senate campaign with another $5 million available if needed, but she has yet to really put it to use and now may be more interested in a different campaign.
Durant’s initial entry is a lot more impressive. Will it continue and last into a competitive campaign? We’ll see.