By Morgan Bryce
Alabama Sec. of State and current Senatorial candidate John Merrill visited with Opelika Observer staff last Tuesday to discuss his ideas and platforms to tackle statewide issues.
The seat, presently held by Democrat Doug Jones, became vacant after Jeff Sessions accepted an Attorney General position in President Donald Trump’s administration. In a specially called election in December 2017, Jones narrowly defeated longtime Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore to fill the open position.
Merrill is competing against a crowded GOP field which includes Reps. Bradley Byrne and Arnold Mooney, Moore and former Auburn University Football Coach Tommy Tuberville.
Following is a background on Merrill and an overview of his platforms and goals in office if elected.
Merrill was born in Wedowee but grew up in Heflin and attended the nearby Cleburne County High School. He went to the University of Alabama for his college degree and was able to work as a congressional intern for Congressman Bill Nichols in 1983 and Sen. Howell Heflin in 1984.
After college, Merrill spent a number of his years in the business sector, most notably with the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority from 1990 to 1993 and as the business development officer for Tuscaloosa’s 1st Federal Bank from 2011 to 2015.
Previously a Democrat, Merrill ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 62nd District seat in 2002 and switched his loyalties to the Republican Party two years later. His early role in the local branch of the Republican Party was voter registration, acquired knowledge that would pay dividends down the road.
In 2010, running as a Republican, he secured the 62nd District seat and held it for the next the four years. He was elected secretary of state in November 2014.
In addition to his hectic political life of active campaigning and serving as Alabama’s secretary of state, Merrill is involved in numerous statewide political and community service boards and is a deacon at Calvary Baptist Church. He and his wife Cindy have been married for 33 years and have two children, Brooks and Allie Grace.
Since announcing his candidacy June 25, Merrill said his main goal if elected would be to serve as a “conservative reformer.”
Merrill cites his successes of trimming his department’s expenditures, improving its overall efficiency and the addition of the nearly 1.3 million new registered voters since January 2015 as proof that he can help make a difference not only in Montgomery, but in Washington D.C.
As a U.S. senator, Merrill said his primary objective if elected would be to support President Donald Trump’s efforts to construct a border wall along the Southern border to reduce illegal immigration in Alabama and across the United States.
“We have to stop the bleeding on illegal immigration. I don’t know many people that would oppose this view: anyone wanting to come to Alabama or the United States should be able to come but they need to come the right way,” Merrill said. “There’s a prescribed code in the United States for someone wanting to attain citizenship and if we don’t like the way the laws are written, then we need to change that.”
In addition to finding ways to reduce government spending and helping the President nominate and place conservative judges in the lower courts where “judging is only presently done from the bench,” Merrill said he wants to be “a voice of reason” in Washington D.C. and stand up against what he deems as one of America’s biggest threats.
“In this seat, we have to have someone who’s going to fight against the liberal socialist agenda that is currently being pushed. It’s being advanced by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and ‘The Squad’, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” Merrill said. “I don’t know for whose country they are advocating but it is certainly not this republic.”
With the GOP primary only months away, Merrill said the main split between he and his Republican competition is the amount of proven, effective leadership that he has displayed during his time in office.
“I’m the only one who has been elected statewide and served a full term, unlike some others who are running in this election cycle,” Merrill said.
For more information or updates on Merrill’s campaign, like and follow his Facebook page or visit www.johnhmerrill.com.