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Jones says that Merrill is trying to curry favor with Mitch McConnell

Tuesday, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) announced that he is going to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Doug Jones (D). Jones responded by releasing a statement in which he accused Merrill of using talking points designed to curry favor with Senator McConnell instead of addressing the issues that Alabamians face.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is the Senate Majority Leader.

“As the Republican party goes through its divisive primary, they would do well to remember the issues that Alabamians face every day,” Jones said in a statement. “Based on what I heard today, Mr. Merrill is instead relying on talking points designed to curry favor with Senator McConnell. I think my record representing the people of Alabama speaks for itself: working to save access to health care in our rural communities, to preserve health care for those with pre-existing conditions, supporting a strong military through my work on the Senate Armed Services Committee and bringing good-paying jobs to Alabama.”

This is not the first statement that Jones has made about McConnell. Last week, former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) announced that he was entering the Senate race.

“Today, Roy Moore has made what was already going to be a divisive Republican primary even more polarizing and extreme,” Jones said in a statement. “We don’t need any more of that. Worse, it’s now clear that my opponent will either be an extremist like Roy Moore or someone handpicked by Mitch McConnell to be his senator, not Alabama’s. The only question left is who will be McConnell’s choice?”

On Tuesday the Alabama Political Reporter asked Merrill about those comments by Doug Jones

Merrill said, “Well if by that statement, Sen. Jones means that the Republican nominee will be someone who will follow the Constitution, someone who will represent Alabama thinking, someone who will represent Alabama values, someone who will vote to confirm conservative judges, someone who will work with the president to build the wall and to stop the flow of illegal immigrants who are coming here to do us harm — if that is what Doug Jones means by a conservative extremist, then count me in, coach,”

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Merrill did acknowledge meeting with McConnell just before the President’s State of the Union address in February.

At a press gathering after Tuesday’s main event, APR asked Merrill: Last time all of the Washington groups got behind one candidate, Luther Strange, and they tried to muscle him through the Republican primary through sheer force of pouring millions into the race. Do you anticipate a similar thing happening here where all of D.C. gets behind one candidate?

“That was a very different race,” Merrill said. “Luther Strange was appointed the Senator by Governor Bentley” and they treated him like an incumbent. Merrill said that didn’t expect that to happen this time and that this would be a more competitive process.

Merrill joins a crowded GOP field that also includes: Judge Moore, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose), and businessman and former televangelist Stanley Adair. State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) has announced that he has formed an exploratory committee looking at entering the race. There is still a lot of talk about other candidates, including former Senator Jeff Sessions (R).

Sessions gave up the Senate seat he held for over twenty years to be President Donald J. Trump’s Attorney General.

Jones does not have an announced Democratic primary opponent yet. Jones is widely viewed as the most vulnerable Senator in the country in the 2020 election.

Professional political commentator and former State Representative Steve Flowers (R) predicted to reporters that if Merrill wins the Republican primary; he will defeat Jones “easily” in the general election. Flowers said that the winner of the GOP nomination would be either Merrill or Bradley Byrne. Flowers predicted that Moore is going to, or already has, “peaked.”

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The primary will be on Tuesday, March 3.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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