Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who announced a run for U.S. Senate for the 2022 midterms, has dropped out of the race after a leaked phone call exposed an affair with a legal assistant, The Washington Post reports.
According to The Post, Merrill on Wednesday went on a local conservative radio show to deny a story posted by a right-wing blog reporting the affair. the blog post also accused Merrill of using racist language.
“The story was a false smear designed to end his bid for U.S. Senate,” he said on the radio. “People are attempting to use this to either advance the candidacy of other people, or they are doing it primarily to harm me and my family,” he added. “It’s very frustrating and very sad.”
Hours later, when an AL.com reporter confronted him with a recording of an explicit phone call between Merrill and the woman, the politician changed his story. Merrill acknowledged the affair — and said he would drop his plans to run for Senate.
“It’s clear that I had an inappropriate relationship with her, and it is not something that I am proud of or something that is something that — I’m very disappointed in myself,” Merrill, who is married with two children, told AL.com. “I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action. And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”
The revelation threw a wrench into the race to succeed Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who is retiring. Merrill was one of several likely GOP contenders for the seat, including Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, who has promoted election fraud claims that led to the deadly attack on Capitol Hill.