By now, most folks in Alabama know that Secretary of State John Merrill’s future in politics crashed and burned this week when he admitted that he had had a three-year extramarital affair.
None of us are such prudes as to think such things never happen. But most are not nearly so public and the person vehemently denying having one is an elected official.
Merrill was once considered by many to be a rising star in state politics. A graduate of the University of Alabama and SGA president while there, Merrill was elected to the state house of representatives from Tuscaloosa in 2010 and then Secretary of State in 2014.
Everyone knew he had ambitions for higher office. In fact, not long after becoming Secretary of State to told some folks that his name was being floated as a potential gubernatorial candidate. And he launched a bid for Jeff Sessions’ senate seat in 2019.. But this was soon aborted.
He also ran into hot water in 2015 when his name surfaced in a divorce deposition when the wife of a friend of his said she and Merrill had an affair. Merrill’s denials stretched credibility in light of the deposition. A longtime attorney friend of mine has read the deposition and says it is very damning.
However, the straw that broke the camel’s back came to light this week. On Tuesday, someone on social media mentioned his most recent liaison. Merrill again went on the defensive, claiming the woman in question had been stalking him for a long time and they had not had a relationship..
Then the other shoe dropped on Wednesday when a taped telephone conversation between Merrill and the lady turned up. It was graphic and there was no denying Merrill was part of the conversation At some point AL.com called Merrill and he immediately went into his denial routine. Then they played him part of the tape.
At that point it was game over for the Secretary of State, who planned to run for Richard Shelby’s open senate seat in 2022. He told AL.com that he would not run for the senate, or any other office, next year. (The Secretary of State is term limited to only two terms. Merrill is in his second term.)
Merrill is a tall, good-looking man and a tireless campaigner. He is as good on the stump as anyone.
However, the fact that he has now been proven a hypocrite will follow him a very long time. Merrill loved to sprinkle religious overtones in his speeches. For instance, he told audiences that we no longer have any “morally uplifting” TV shows. That we no longer have shows based on “biblical foundations.” That people were too interested in things like “wife swap shows,”
The irony that he was ignoring the commandment about “thou shalt not commit adultery” is obvious.
And when you have someone who is proven to be a liar, cheat and hypocrite you certainly don’t see someone who should be trusted in any elected office.
(Though I must add, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that such qualities seem to be tolerated in Washington these days.)