Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced Tuesday on the state capitol steps that he would run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020.
“This is not something that I have pursued,” Merrill said. “This is something that pursued me.”
Merrill said people have come to him and said, “We need to have a conservative reformer that is a proven winner who has offered himself as a candidate for this seat.”
Merrill said he has wanted to be a U.S. senator since he was a college student at the University of Alabama running for president of the Student Government Association, but ultimately, it was all the support that he was getting from people all over the state encouraging him to run that led him to become a candidate.
“I am the person that the people of Alabama need to get behind and to move forward supporting so that we can make sure that we take this Senate seat back and give it to the people of Alabama,” Merrill stated.
“We have to have someone go to Washington, D.C. that is going to support the president and help the president build the wall to stop the immigration fiasco that is currently ongoing in our nation,” Merrill said.
Merrill said he is going to continue to serve as secretary of state during the election. He also said he was secretary of state last year while he was a candidate for secretary of state. He said the local election officials are responsible for hiring the poll workers and canvassing the results.
“That’s the way the process works,” Merrill said. “And anybody that wants to make anything more than that is obviously somebody that’s trying to do it for political purposes.”
Merrill said a friend came to him last week asked if it is worth running for what he will have to go through and whether he thinks it is worth it for the commitment he will have to make. Merrill said he replied by asking whether the Republic worth it.
“Because I can tell you something — the Republic is worth it to me,” Merrill said. “The Republic is worth it to the 150 people that are gathered here behind me and the people that are gathered here today.”
“As far as the other candidates are concerned, each one of those candidates brings certain strengths to the table,” Merrill said. “Each one of those candidates has certain benefits that they can offer to the people of Alabama, but if I thought that any one of those people could do a better job of representing me or representing you in the United States Senate, I would not be here declaring my candidacy today.”
“Until we decide that Democrats are going to quit using the immigration conversation as a cash cow and until republicans stop using the immigration issue as a cash cow to raise money for campaigns we are not going to get anything done on immigration reform,” Merrill said.
“We have people who need to have support in business and industry and agriculture in our state and we have people who want to come work here,” Merrill said. “We want anybody who wants to come to the United States or the state of Alabama to come, but we want them to come the right way. We have got to make sure that these laws are working for people that want to come here and want to be a part of our culture not change our culture, but people who want to assimilate into the United States and people who want make a positive difference for themselves and their family.”
Merrill said he talked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, about this seat in February right before McConnell went to hear the president’s State of the Union address.
Alabama Political Reporter asked whether Merrill would like to respond to Sen. Doug Jones’ comment that his Republican opponent was going to either be a conservative extremist, like Roy Moore, or the hand-picked candidate of Mitch McConnell.
“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,” Merrill said.
Merrill said Sen. Richard Shelby has been a friend and a mentor of his since 1984 when he was an intern in Congress and Shelby asked him to come by and speak to him before he left.
“I will continue to rely on him for guidance and counsel because of his experience and the things he’s done,” Merrill said.
Merrill was then asked whether he was prepared for the same level of scrutiny as Roy Moore when he ran for the Senate seat.
“If I was not ready for that same level of scrutiny, I would not be a candidate for this office,” Merrill answered.
Merrill also said Medicaid expansion is a local issue and if that is what Gov. Kay Ivey decides to do, she will have his support.
Merrill told reporters that there has been climate change and weather change since God created the world after seven days, and there will be climate change and weather change until he comes back again.
Merrill said he has been to China and talked with the Chinese, and they have no interest in doing anything to lower their emissions. He said the air there comes over here, and he is not interested in doing anything that would put business and industry over here at a competitive disadvantage with them.
Reporters asked Merrill what he would do if former Sen. Jeff Sessions entered the race.
Merrill said Sessions was one of his personal heroes, and if that were to happen, he would have a discussion with Sessions about the path moving forward.
Last week, former Chief Justice Roy Moore announced that he was going to run for the U.S. Senate seat again.
Judge Moore has offered himself up as a candidate for Alabama chief justice twice, for governor twice, and for U.S. Senate once.
State Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, endorsed Merrill at the state of the event. State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, former State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, and Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell were also there supporting Merrill’s candidacy for Senate.
The Republican primary will be on March 3.