Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released a statement on Wednesday ruling out a run for public office in 2022.
Merrill’s decision comes after a 2019 extramarital affair he conducted with a 44-year-old legal aide in Montgomery surfaced online in recent days.
“After much prayer, reflection, and conversations with my wife, Cindy, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for any office in 2022,” Merrill said in a statement provided by his official office.
Merrill did not show any inclination to resigning before his term ends in January 2023, saying “I am surrounded by a great team and we look forward to finishing the goals we set out to achieve before our term ends.”
The first evidence of Merrill’s marital infidelities was reported by the hyperpartisan outlet NationalFile on Tuesday afternoon.
It alleged that Merrill, who is married with children, carried on a months-long sexual affair with Cesaire McPherson, a Montgomery resident.
The NationalFile report included what appeared to be firsthand evidence of illicit communications between Merrill and McPherson, including texts, photos and an audio recording.
Merrill denied the affair in a Tuesday evening interview with Tuscaloosa journalist Ryan Phillips, who writes the Patch.com page for the Druid City. Merrill called the allegations “baseless” and “entirely false.” He further accused McPherson of harassing himself and his staff in recent months.
In an article published by Alabama Media Group Wednesday afternoon, Merrill is described as initially repeating his denials until the two authors of the piece played a recording provided to them by McPherson. Reportedly the recording is of Merrill and McPherson discussing sexual acts they performed on each other.
According to the article, Merrill then backtracked and admitted the infidelity, calling it “an inappropriate relationship.”
“I’m very disappointed in myself. I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action,” Merrill told the outlet.
Alabama’s secretary of state had long been speculated as a candidate to replace the retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Merrill encouraged the speculation in recent months, especially on his Twitter account where he would regularly retweet encouragement for him to run for the seat.
As late as Wednesday morning, he told Talk 99.5 FM’s the “Matt & Val Show” that he was still considering announcing a Senate campaign.
Merrill’s statement Wednesday afternoon that he would not be seeking elected office in 2022 was released nearly simultaneously with the publishing of the Alabama Media Group report in which he admitted infidelity.
“Life presents us with a series of chapters, some more challenging than others, in our book of life, and when one finishes, another one begins. While I remain fully committed to continuing my service as your Secretary of State through the end of my term, I do not know what the next chapter will present for me and my family,” Merrill said in his Wednesday statement.