Bradley Byrne Bradley Roberts Byrne (1955-) is a business attorney and former politician from Mobile, Mobile County. He was first elected as a Republican to represent Alabama’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in a 2013 special election and served in that role until 2021. Byrne also served in the Alabama State Senate, as chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, and on the Alabama State Board of Education. In 2020, Byrne was unsuccessful in a run for the U.S. Senate.
Byrne was born in the city of Mobile on February 16, 1955, to Arthur and Elizabeth Byrne; he had an older brother. His family traces its roots in the area back to the late 1700s. In high school, Bradley attended the University Military School (present-day the UMS-Wright Preparatory School), graduating in 1973. He then attended Duke University, from where he graduated in 1977. That same year, he enrolled at the University of Alabama School of Law, graduating in 1980. Byrne returned to Mobile and practiced business and employment law and married the former Rebecca Dukes, with whom he would have four children.
In 1994, Byrne ran as Democrat and was elected to the Alabama State Board of Education. He switched to the Republican Party in 1997, reflecting the growing movement of traditionally conservative southern Democrats to the national Republican Party from the 1980s onward. In 2002, Byrne was elected to the Alabama State Senate as a representative for Baldwin County. As a state senator, he served on the Education Committee, the Education Budget Committee, and the Judiciary Committee and chaired the Joint Oversight Committee on State Parks. In May 2007, Byrne left the state senate when the Gov. Robert “Bob” Riley appointed him to lead the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, and as chancellor of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS). As chancellor, he also served as the Chairman of the State Workforce Planning Council, which oversees Alabama’s workforce-development system.
Byrne took over the ACCS at a time when the community college system had been under intense scrutiny. The previous chancellor, Roy Johnson, was fired over charges he had hired relatives, other high-ranking college officials had provided jobs to members of the state legislature, and the agency had been awarding questionable contracts. Byrne, then-governor Riley, and the legislature addressed the scandal by prohibiting lawmakers from also receiving money from ACCS and other state entities, a practice, known as “double-dipping,” that received wide-spread notoriety in the state.
In 2009, Byrne resigned as chancellor of the ACCS to run in the 2010 Republican primary race for governor. He placed first in the primary but lost in the subsequent runoff to future governor Robert J. Bentley. Afterwards, he returned to Mobile to continue his law practice. In a 2013 special election, Byrne ran for the First Congressional District seat left open when Rep. Josiah Robins “Jo” Bonner Jr. resigned to take a position with the University of Alabama. In his campaign ads and speeches, Byrne cited his record “cleaning up” the troubled community college system, instituting reforms, and addressing fiscal mismanagement, which some critics contested. Nevertheless, he won a bitter primary contest and handily defeated Democrat Burton LeFlore for Bonner’s open seat and assumed office on January 8, 2014. Byrne also won that year’s general election by a large margin. The First Congressional District consists of Washington, Monroe, Escambia, Baldwin, and Mobile Counties and part of Clarke County.
Byrne won two subsequent reelections to Congress. The 2016 race was not contested by Democrats, and he easily won the 2018 race. During the 2016 election season, Byrne criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his sexually inappropriate comments. He called Trump unfit for office and called for Trump to step aside as the Republican nominee. After Trump’s election, however, Byrne became a vocal defender of the president and his high-profile positions, such as building a wall along the southern border with Mexico to deter illegal immigration. Following the May 2019 release of the Special Council investigation report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and related testimony, Byrne introduced a bill to “investigate the investigators,” alleging in a statement that it was driven by partisanship. Byrne also championed President Trump during his impeachment trial, voting against articles of impeachment and decrying the process. He later introduced legislation to determine the cost of the trial, alleging waste of taxpayer funds.
While serving in the House of Representatives, Byrne’s voting record was conservative, though he supported many Democratic bills. He voted for and led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, strengthen border security, enact terms limits, pass a balanced budget amendment, and protect lands taken in trust for Poarch Creek Indians in Escambia County. Byrne, who is of Irish descent, pushed for the creation of a National Museum of Irish American History. In general, he voted to reduce regulation on businesses, decrease federal spending, decrease federal control over education, increase right-to-work policies, cut taxes, and for bills opposing abortion. Only one piece of legislation he introduced was enacted, a 2017 House Resolution to nullify a Department of Labor rule about employers’ obligation to make and maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Byrne served on the House Education and Labor Committee as a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. He also sat on the House Armed Services Committee as a member of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces and the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. From that position, Byrne supported the construction of ships for the U.S. Navy in the Mobile shipyard and for greater support for veterans.
In 2020, Byrne did not seek reelection to his congressional seat, but instead entered the Alabama Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. He came in third place behind former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions, who previously held the seat. Byrne had been the favorite early in the race before the entrance of Sessions and Tuberville, who won the seat held by attorney Doug Jones. Byrne was replaced in Congress by Republican Jerry Carl, a businessman who had served on the Mobile County Commission and easily defeated the Democratic candidate in the general election. In 2022, Byrne was tapped to lead the Mobile Chamber of Commerce..