Onetime Trump critic Rep. Martha Roby survives runoff challenge in Alabama, CNN projects

Republican Rep. Martha Roby will survive a primary runoff in Alabama, CNN projects, defeating former Democratic congr...

Posted: Jul. 19, 2018 12:29 AM
Updated: Jul. 19, 2018 12:29 AM

Republican Rep. Martha Roby will survive a primary runoff in Alabama, CNN projects, defeating former Democratic congressman-turned-pro-Donald Trump conservative Bobby Bright.

Roby had been seen as vulnerable to a primary challenge since the 2016 election, when she insisted then-Republican nominee Donald Trump "step aside" after the "Access Hollywood" tape was made public. But she's also been a reliable vote for the President's agenda in the House. Trump endorsed Roby on Twitter last month and took credit for her victory Wednesday morning.

"Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the "flood gates" opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!" Trump tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence also played a role in Roby's victory Tuesday, recording a robocall for her campaign and tweeting several times that both he and Trump supported her.

Roby's win could be seen as a sign that Trump's endorsement carried some weigh in Alabama, a state that famously ignored the President's in-person pleadings and selected former judge Roy Moore over Trump-backed interim Sen. Luther Strange in a primary runoff last year. Moore, who was then endorsed by Trump in the general election, went on to lose the Senate race to Democrat Doug Jones.

Road to the runoff

Roby's criticism of Trump left her looking vulnerable immediately after the 2016 election, and four Republicans jumped into the primary to challenge her.

She finished with 39% support in June's primary -- below the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff. Bright finished in second place, with 28% of the vote.

Roby's campaign has emphasized her history of voting with Trump 97% of the time and how she aligns with him on the issue of immigration. She opposes abortion rights and touts her endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

Her campaign tweeted last week: "I've been proud to work w/ my colleagues in Congress & the Trump Admin. over the last year & a half to deliver meaningful results for Americans. I'm grateful to have POTUS' endorsement in this election, & I'm eager to continue fighting for our shared conservative priorities."

In a Fox News interview last week, Roby said she had "no regrets" about her 2016 comments.

Bright cited that remark on Twitter, saying it was "another prime example of her recklessness and lack of judgment."

He also turned it into a television advertisement. "Martha Roby fooled us once. Don't let her fool us again," a narrator says in the spot.

For Bright, a 65-year-old former Montgomery mayor, Tuesday's contest comes at the end of an unusual road back to the House seat he held -- as a Democrat who voted for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker -- from 2009 until Roby defeated him in 2010.

Bright has reinvented himself as a staunchly pro-Trump Republican. Per the Montgomery Advertiser, Bright has said he left the Democratic Party because of its move leftward.

"I will not let them taint me as a left-wing liberal," Bright said last month at a campaign event. "People know Bobby Bright. They know I'm conservative."

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