Martha Roby, Former Trump Critic, Wins Republican Primary Election in Alabama

Representative Martha Roby in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday night. She held off a challenge in the Republican primary from a populist former Democrat.
Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Representative Martha Roby of Alabama prevailed on Tuesday in a Republican primary election that unfolded as a test of fealty to President Trump, defeating a challenger who assailed her for withdrawing her support for Mr. Trump in the last days of the 2016 campaign.

Her criticism of Mr. Trump cost Ms. Roby, a mainstream conservative seeking a fifth term, a clear-cut victory in an initial round of voting last month. She fell short of a majority, forcing her to compete in a runoff election against Bobby Bright, a populist former Democrat who served in Congress and as mayor of Montgomery, Alabama’s capital.

She handily held off Mr. Bright, The Associated Press reported, after overcoming suspicion about her loyalty to the president with help from an unlikely ally — Mr. Trump himself.

Unlike other Republicans whom Mr. Trump has gleefully helped push from office, Ms. Roby was not an eager antagonist during the 2016 presidential election, or since. Though she pronounced Mr. Trump “unacceptable” after the release of the “Access Hollywood” recording that showed him bragging about groping women, she has been an unflagging supporter since his inauguration.

So last month Mr. Trump, who easily carried Ms. Roby’s predominantly rural district in 2016 and remains popular there, extended to her a kind of political clemency that he rarely grants critics on the right. He endorsed Ms. Roby on Twitter, calling her a “consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda.”

Perhaps just as importantly, Mr. Trump branded Ms. Roby’s challenger as wholly unacceptable. Alluding to Mr. Bright’s tenure in the House before switching parties, Mr. Trump called him a “Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat” — a label Ms. Roby and her allies consistently affixed to Mr. Bright during the campaign.

Ms. Roby wasted little time in expressing gratitude to the White House for its support.

“Sincere thanks to President Trump and Vice President Pence,” she told supporters at a victory celebration, according to the A.P. “I am so humbled that the people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District have again placed their trust and their confidence in me.”

Mr. Trump offered his congratulations Wednesday morning, saying his endorsement opened the “flood gates’’ to her victory.

Ms. Roby is now heavily favored to win the general election in the district, a largely rural and conservative seat that also includes Montgomery. The Democratic nominee is Tabitha Isner, a minister and business analyst.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Alexander Burns