At a gathering of Alabama Republicans last year, Katie Britt and her husband strategically positioned themselves at the end of a receiving line to shake hands with former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Britt, a lawyer and former chief of staff for Senator Richard Shelby, had recently announced her campaign to fill the seat being vacated by her former boss, who is retiring. Mr. Trump had already endorsed her opponent, Representative Mo Brooks — but the couple hoped to sow some doubt in Mr. Trump’s mind, according to four people familiar with the encounter.
As the couple greeted Mr. Trump, Ms. Britt’s husband, Wesley Britt — a burly retired N.F.L. lineman — mentioned to the former president that he had once played for the New England Patriots. “The only time you’ve met me, I think I was wrapped in a towel in the Patriots locker room,” Mr. Britt was said to have told Mr. Trump, who found it hilarious and replied that Robert K. Kraft, the team’s billionaire owner, “likes me very much.”