Incumbent Secretary of State John Merrill won the Republican nomination for his current position in the June 5 primary with a whopping 71.64 percent of the vote.
But now that the primaries are over, the real battle begins.
Merrill will face Democratic nominee Heather Milam in the November 6 general election, and the two candidates could not be any more different.
With that in mind, here are five things you need to know about John Merrill:
1. He has been involved in government in some way since 1983.
While attending the University of Alabama, Merrill served as a Congressional Intern for then U.S. Rep. Bill Nichols and U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin in 1983 and 1984. These internships jumpstarted Merrill’s career, leading him to several positions in local and state government at a very early age.
In 1990, Merrill accepted the Assistant Director’s position at the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority where he assisted in recruiting Mercedes-Benz to the area. Merrill then served as director to many boards, and chambers in and around Tuscaloosa until 2010 when he was elected to serve as the State Representative for for District 62. In 2014 Merrill was elected to serve as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State, where he still serves today.
2. He is an active member of many different organizations and serves in a leadership role in several of them.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, Merrill has served in leadership roles for various different community organizations including: “The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Children First Board of Directors, Friends of the Alabama Archives Board of Directors, Alabama YMCA Youth in Government Board of Directors, State Republican Executive Committee, National Rifle Association, Leadership Tuscaloosa, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, United Way of West Alabama, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, March of Dimes, Hillcrest High School Athletic Boosters Club, West Alabama Literacy Council, Alabama Constables Association & others.”
“He has also served as Southeastern Regional Vice President for the National School Public Relations Association and President or Chairman of many groups, which include the Alabama Children’s Trust Fund, Alabama School Communicator’s Association and the Alabama Community Education Association, American Red Cross, Leadership Tuscaloosa Alumni Association, United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama, Youth for Christ, Druid Civitan Club, the Tuscaloosa City School’s Vocational Advisory Council, past Chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Republican Executive Committee.”
3. He was president of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama.
While pursuing his Political science degree from the University of Alabama, Merrill served as President of the university’s Student Government Association (SGA) from 1986 to 1987.
Note; Several members of the Alabama legislature have begun their political careers in universities student government associations. Governor Kay Ivey was a member of the SGA at Auburn University and State Auditor Jim Zeigler was the President of the SGA at the University of Alabama from 1970 to 1971.
4. He comes from a long line of Alabama politicians.
Merrill is a descendant of former Lieutenant Governor of Alabama, Hugh Davis Merrill, member and speaker of the Alabama House, Hugh Davis Merrill, Jr., and Pelham Jones Merrill, a member of the Alabama House who fought in World War II.
5. He has represented the state in several countries including Russia.
Merrill was a member of a coalition of U.S. leaders who traveled to Russia in 2016 to observe the nation’s parliamentary polls.
“We had unfiltered, unbridled access and could walk in unannounced. There were no incidents I saw where people were heavily influenced to support one party or candidate over another,” Merrill told the Alabama Newscenter.