From staff and wire reports
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill suspended his campaign for the U.S. Senate on Sunday, citing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ entrance into the crowded Republican race.
Merrill announced his decision in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
Merrill said he “saw a path to victory” when he entered the race in June, but that Sessions’ decision to join the field last month “dramatically” changed the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in 2020.
“With Senator Sessions’ late entry into this race, we have come to realize that a crowded Republican primary only benefits Doug Jones and the out of touch liberal Democrats,” Merrill said in the statement.
Others contending for the GOP nomination include former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Roy Moore, the right-wing lightning rod who faced allegations of sexual misconduct and lost to Jones in the 2017 special election.
Jones is the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Alabama.
Some of the remaining candidates issued statements congratulating Merrill on a well-fought campaign, perhaps hoping to earn an endorsement down the road.
“I want to congratulate Secretary of State John Merrill for running a strong race, and for his tireless dedication to the people of Alabama. No one has worked harder than John as he has covered every corner of our great state,” Sessions said in a statement.
Byrne said on Twitter that he looked forward to working with Merrill to “make Alabama a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”
I’m confident @JohnHMerrill will continue to be a strong leader and voice for Alabama. Rebecca and I wish him and Cindy the best of luck and look forward to working with him to make Alabama a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
— Bradley Byrne (@BradleyByrne) December 2, 2019
The large field has increased the chances that the March 3 GOP primary will head to a runoff if no candidate tops 50% of the primary vote.
Merrill, who has previously said he considers Sessions one of his heroes, did not make an endorsement in the statement. He said he would continue to serve as Alabama’s secretary of state.
Polling from October sponsored by the Club for Growth and conducted by WPA Intelligence showed Merrill in fifth place behind Sessions, Tuberville, Byrne and Moore. Sessions led the primary field with 36 percent support among GOP voters. Here were the full results:
- Jeff Sessions 36%
- Tommy Tuberville 23%
- Bradley Byrne 11%
- Roy Moore 11%
- John Merrill 6%
- Arnold Mooney 2%
- Undecided 12%
The poll, which was conducted Oct. 29-31, surveyed 511 GOP primary voters with a margin of error of +/-4.4%. Club for Growth is supporting Sessions in the race.