Lawmaker makes it official, enters 2014 race

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People who have spent any time with state Rep. John Merrill knew he would eventually run for higher office. This week, the freshman Republican made that official with stops in several cities to announce he is running for secretary of state – an office he said he has been eyeing since he was 14.

Merrill’s office in the Alabama State House is adorned with political posters and photos of him with political leaders, including presidents, members of Congress and governors from both parties.

 

State Rep. John Merrill, R-Tuscaloosa

In his two full sessions in the Legislature, Merrill has worked with his colleagues to pass a bill dropping the mandatory age for children to begin attending school to 6, to require two-year and four-year colleges and universities to construct safe rooms in dormitories and academic facilities, and to make it a felony to loot during a declared disaster.

Merrill said, if elected secretary of state, he would preserve the integrity of elections in the state, ensure the arm of that office that interacts with businesses expedites any actions that could assist with economic development, and assist in expediting adoptions so people can “make their families whole.”

When asked, Merrill said he decided to announce his candidacy for the job more than a year before the primary because people in many areas of the state do not know him and he wants time to introduce himself to those people.

From a practical standpoint, candidates could also benefit from announcing early by deterring some other possible candidates.

Merrill said he would wait until he gets into office to see what issues need to be addressed. He said there are areas of concern in every office.

As he made his announcement in downtown Montgomery, Merrill was flanked by fellow state Reps. Jay Love and Greg Wren of Montgomery, Mike Jones of Andalusia, Kurt Wallace of Maplesville, and Terri Collins of Decatur. Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan also attended the announcement.

Love said he has known Merrill for years and is supporting him for the important position because of his success and his honesty. He said Merrill, a Republican lawmaker from Tuscaloosa, has been “an integral part of changing how the Legislature works.”

Love, chairman of the House education budget committee, said there is no more important office than secretary of state because the office is there to ensure honest elections.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman, a fellow Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term in office because of state laws. Merrill said Chapman is one of the most popular elected officials in the state and “has done a tremendous job as secretary of state.”

“I am very thankful she is not able to run for reelection,” he said with a smile. “I would not be offering myself as a candidate for this position.”

Merrill said his priorities, when he ran for the House seat in 2010, were to improve education, improve the economy, ethics reform, and more accountability and transparency in government.

“We have been able to transform the way Alabama has government operating in our state,” he said Wednesday.

Merrill, who served as director of community relations and community education with the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education from 1994 until he was elected to the House in 2010, is now the business development officer with First Federal Bank in Tuscaloosa. He is also very active in the community and has received numerous awards for his work. Merrill also served as president of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama.

– posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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