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Meet Sen. Katie Britt: The 42-year-old Alabama Republican who gave the GOP response to Biden's State of the Union

Katie Britt
Sen. Katie Britt, an Alabama RepublicanKevin Dietsch/Getty Images
  • Sen. Katie Britt delivered the GOP's official response to the 2023 State of the Union.

  • Britt was expected to lean into the generational contrast she has with Joe Biden.

  • At 42, Britt is viewed as a rising star in Republican politics.

Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama, the youngest Republican woman to be elected to the US Senate, gave the GOP's official response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union on Thursday night.

Britt, who turned 42 about a month ago, is just over a year into her first term in the chamber. Her appearance stands to further her status as a rising star in the party.

While delivering the State of the Union response is considered a thankless task, then-Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Sen. Rand Paul all delivered their responses before later running for the Republican presidential nomination. As a rising star in the House, Rep. Paul Ryan delivered the GOP's 2011 response and less than two years later was tapped to be Mitt Romney's running mate. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was Trump's second White House press secretary, delivered the 2023 response and there's some speculation she might join Trump on the ticket this November.

There are potential pitfalls with the assignment. Unlike the president, most responses are not delivered in front of live crowds that can interrupt a speech for rousing applause. Responses are also far shorter than the lengthy State of the Union addresses.

Rubio and the then-Rep. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III found out the hard way that a speaker can go viral for just about anything other than what they actually say.

Here's a look at Britt's rapid rise.

Katie Britt grew up in Enterprise, Alabama, the oldest of four daughters.

Katie Britt
Sen. Katie BrittJemal Countess/Getty Images

Britt's parents owned a series of small businesses, including a hardware store and a dance studio, the Montgomery Advertiser has reported.

In 1999, the future senator, then Katie Boyd, competed in Girls State — a political-education program that featured a mock election — and was elected governor. Nationwide, the contest is known as a proving ground for future leaders; Alabama's current governor, Kay Ivey, is also an alum of the program. Boyd went on to attend the University of Alabama, where she was the president of the student government association.

While in Tuscaloosa, she met her future husband, Wesley Britt, who played offensive line for the Crimson Tide. Katie Britt told AL.com in 2021 that the pair were "best friends" for seven years before dating a few years after they both graduated. Britt, who was a football All-American, was drafted in 2005 by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round. He briefly played for the New England Patriots.

They were married in 2008 and now share two children.

The future senator's first job took her straight to Capitol Hill

Sen. Richard Shelby
Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, talks to reporters in 2019.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Right out of college, Britt set the foundation for her future career by joining Sen. Richard Shelby's office.

A longtime fixture on the Hill, Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986 as a Democrat before switching parties, a common occurrence for many southern Republicans who came of age when the GOP was starting to amass power in the region. Shelby built a reputation as a conservative dealmaker, rising to lead the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Britt began as his deputy press secretary. She left the Hill to pursue her law degree and to work for firms in Alabama before returning to his staff. In 2016, she was hired as Shelby's chief of staff.

Her relationship with Shelby proved vital in helping her win the difficult Republican primary to replace him.

Britt left Shelby's office for a final time in 2018 when she became the head of the Business Council of Alabama. She was the first woman to lead the group, according to AL.com. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Britt led a campaign to keep the state's small businesses open and to resist any additional shutdowns. In June 2021, Britt resigned from the group and announced her Senate campaign.

Britt was not favored when she entered the Senate race, but Donald Trump gave her an opening

Katie Britt talks to her husband Wesley Britt
Katie Britt talks to her husband, Wesley Britt, at an event for her 2022 Senate campaignKim Chandler/AP

Her campaign was anything but easy.

Then-Rep. Mo Brooks, a loyal Trump ally, was considered the favorite. Trump had already endorsed him before Britt even announced. Despite her extensive political experience, Britt had never run for office before. Trump derisively called her Shelby's "assistant." But Brooks' candidacy worried more establishment-minded Republicans who didn't want a repeat of Roy Moore's disastrous candidacy that allowed Doug Jones, a Democrat, to pull off a monumental upset in a 2017 special election.

Britt turned things around quickly. Within a few months of announcing, she was outraising Brooks. Brooks also began to grate on some in Trump's orbit, including when he was booed at an August 2021 rally for suggesting that Trump fans should put concerns about the 2020 election behind them. During her candidacy, Britt leaned into the generational contrast, arguing that the state was eager for "new blood." She portrayed herself as a "mama on a mission."

In contrast, Brooks' candidacy continued to languish. In March 2022, Trump dealt him a devastating blow by withdrawing his support, a virtually unprecedented action for the former president. Shelby also pledged to spend as much as $6 million from his campaign account to help Britt.

Brooks and Britt were later forced into a June 2022 runoff, and Britt emerged victorious. She later made easy work of her general-election opponent.

Britt's risen quickly since joining the Senate

Katie Britt (fourth from left) and her fellow GOP freshmen senators
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell poses with the 2022 Senate GOP freshman class, including Britt, in January 2023.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Britt was one of five new GOP freshmen senators to join the chamber in 2023. Their class was expected to carry the Republican Party back to the majority, but Democrats managed to expand their razor-thin margin in the 2022 midterms.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted little time in helping Britt gain a foothold. He quickly tapped her to join his leadership team as an informal advisor, according to the Hill. Britt stood out from some of her fellow Republican newcomers, including Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, in expressing support for McConnell's leadership.

Like her former boss, Britt has built relationships with some Democrats, including Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. She has maintained a staunchly conservative voting record, even voting against a homeland-security spending bill she helped negotiate, per the Associated Press.

Read the original article on Business Insider