6 months ago

Marsh, Reed discuss strategy behind preventing a ‘blue wave’ in Alabama, voter issues, Trump in wide-ranging interview

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) recently sat down for a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Yellowhammer News, discussing the 2018 election cycle, the new composition of the Alabama Senate, the upcoming legislative session and everything in between.

The first part of this interview series examines the impressive electoral success that the Senate Republican Caucus experienced this campaign season. Marsh and Reed outlined how their strategy was formulated, as well as how it was executed with precision.

The rest of the series will look at the upcoming session with a focus on the crucial legislative priorities that the two Senate leaders shared.

Successful cycle – ‘No blue wave in Alabama’

It was a busy day at the Alabama Statehouse last week, with members in Montgomery for orientation. Amidst the excited buzz of legislators old and new, Yellowhammer News joined Marsh and Reed in the pro tem’s seventh-floor conference room, with the two leaders’ schedules already jammed pack almost four months away from the start of the 2019 session.

To start the wall-to-wall conversation, it was important to understand how the Senate – and its Republican caucus – got to where it is today.

The past quadrennium saw Senate Republicans with a supermajority already – 26 Republicans, one Independent and eight Democrats filled the chamber. However, after picking off the formerly Independent seat with Senator Donnie Chesteen’s (R-Geneva) election and holding off significant Democratic challenges elsewhere, the caucus is stronger than ever.

This historic feat did not happen overnight. As Marsh and Reed explained, a lot of planning, expertise and hard work went into the 2018 election cycle.

This started with the primaries that occurred in the spring, with the strategy and groundwork ahead of these really beginning in early 2017. Marsh outlined that, initially, Reed focused on supporting their incumbents in the primaries, while Marsh looked at the open seats that would be in play – whether that be through turnover or like the Wiregrass seat that was a pickup opportunity.

The blueprint they used in 2018 was built off of already-proven success.

“[W]here we’ve had success, in fact if you look at the policies since Republicans have been in charge and the things that have been accomplished in the state, including this great economy, a large part of that is because we went out and recruited candidates, made sure people were ready and willing to serve the state of Alabama, made sure they were able to raise dollars. And it was no different this time,” Marsh outlined.

At the end of the day, their mission was accomplished this cycle. Marsh reminisced on an initial planning meeting that he and Reed hosted before the cycle got underway.

“I remember sitting in front of my colleagues and saying, ‘My goal is to have 27 Republicans [in the Senate]. I think that’s what we should have based on this state.’ And by golly, we had 27 [after the election],” Marsh said.

He continued, “And, so if you look at the talk that was out there of a ‘blue wave,’ I think that it was made pretty clear that there was no blue wave in Alabama. People are happy with what the Republicans are doing, and they’re going to continue to be happy because we continue to bring good people down here to do the work of the state.”

The strategy

With the end result in mind, Reed began to advise on how they got there.

“I think some of the tactical pieces, to go along with what the Pro Tem said, were very important,” Reed outlined. “When you begin to look at the process and how it evolved, we tried to understand early on what the different members were doing. A lot of times, if people are looking at running or not running and those kinds of things, we worked to understand that as early in the process as we could.”

He explained that it was important to know who was running where to map out the allocation of resources and ensure that the Caucus was on track to hit the final goal of 27 members. It also helped in the long run that in many of the open seats, the primaries featured multiple candidates of “high-quality.”

“We wound up in the primary with what was a really good team. Of that 27, then you wound up with 14 of those 27 that had some kind of opposition in the general election, whether it was an Independent or a Democrat,” Reed advised.

He continued, “Then, we began to assess – looking at who were going to be the members, for whatever reason, based on their location, based on the votes in the past, based on who their opponent was going to be – and try to come up with a short list of those 14 who were going to be those that were the most vulnerable and [decide] how do we allocate our resources and our focus from top to bottom.”

With the encouragement of Marsh and Reed, all of the Republican candidates ran and worked hard. Through the leaders’ work in the background to assist the most vulnerable campaigns with much-needed resources, the funding and data were there to enable victory.

“We had some good help from different folks that were working within the campaigns,” Reed added. “You had some very capable campaign managers that we worked with closely. We had some different folks that worked with us across the board and worked with me as leader to try and help us understand, with some polling and some other things, where our focus needed to be.”

Driving the vote

While having a winning electoral strategy is always important, the only poll that matters is on Election Day. On top of all of their planning and allocation of resources, Marsh and Reed put an impetus on targeting likely Republican voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote.

“As we then narrowed into the election, there was a process really that was led by Senator Marsh – he and I worked on it together – that was an effort to try and work on getting out the vote,” Reed shared. “Recognizing in Alabama, that if you had the opportunity for a larger vote and you had an opportunity to get those folks to the polls, there are more of them that are Republican that not.”

Reed said Marsh “had a detailed plan” to increase turnout in conservative-leaning areas across the state and that the Republican Caucus members “bought into” this plan through the legwork of their own campaigns.

“I think the plan worked very well,” Reed remarked.

“It was aggressive, it was a plan that was focused more on just some traditional, ‘Hey, let’s do a poll and see where we are.’ This had elements of modeling and elements of much more deep data analysis that had a lot more to it to help us have much more definitive information on where we put our resources. I think it worked really well across the state,” the majority leader continued.

Marsh explained that the “bottom goal” of that plan was to get out the vote after the primaries were over.

“It’s getting out the Republican vote,” Marsh emphasized. “Our goal, as [Reed] said, through typical tactics you use plus the use of analytics, we had a whole new arena of people that we knew would vote Republican if we could get them to the polls. And we had a very aggressive campaign to do that, and I think you – the stats are already out – you look at the straight ticket voters in the state this past election, the beauty of that is we knew it would help our Senate candidates, but we also knew if you’re talking straight ticket voters, it helps every House candidate, it helps every statewide candidate – everybody benefited from that group of people we identified to get to the polls that would vote straight ticket.”

The issues on voters’ minds

While Alabamians in part were voting to continue the proven pro-growth, conservative leadership that Republicans have brought to Montgomery, there were hot button and wedge issues that drove people to the polls, too.

Obviously, this differed district-by-district, with divergent demographics and local wants and needs factoring in. However, some things stood out across the Yellowhammer State in the Senate Republican Caucus’ data analysis.

“It is different [by district], but based on the analytics – and it’s based on buying patterns and other data that’s obtained – you were able to literally send an individual mail piece to every [potential voter]. You knew who they were, and you knew based on this analytics what their issue was,” Marsh outlined.

He then said that in one district alone, different voters got different mail pieces, strictly depending on data. He gave the example that one individual may have gotten something on Second Amendment rights, while another in the same area received a piece on school choice.

Besides those two issue examples, “small government” and “efficient government” were on voters’ minds.

Marsh and Reed also pointed to the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate being a key driver of turnout, especially with Amendment Two having been featured on the statewide ballot. They added that Amendment One, regarding the display of the Ten Commandments on public property, also helped bring conservative evangelical voters out.

Then, the vocal opposition – backed by huge out-of-state liberal funding – to these popular social stances by Democrats just helped the Republicans even more.

“Through our process, we were able to identify some of that information and know how people felt,” Reed explained. “And, to Senator Marsh’s point, if we understood where they were on a number of those different issues, whatever their hot-buttons were, then being able to encourage them to go to the polls for reasons that were very important to them individually allowed us to wind up with a much higher turnout.”

Trump

Going back to the primaries specifically, Marsh added that anti-incumbency did factor in and was something that Reed and he had to account for. The pro tem attributed this largely to the “Drain the swamp” national political atmosphere spearheaded by President Donald Trump.

After the primaries, this anti-incumbency fervor was not an issue for the Republicans, as the election then tilted on strictly partisan lines for the most part. Yet, when it was Republican vs. Republican back in the spring, established records were not beneficial.

“Once you got through the primaries, then you could draw a real clear line that because these people were here and doing the right things, this economy’s great and do you want to go back the other way, here’s where the Republicans stand, here’s where the Democrats are,” Marsh advised.

He continued, “And the Democrats’ rally cry, literally, was expand Medicaid. We can tell you right now, that’s not the rally cry of Republicans. And so it became real easy after we got through those primaries.”

“But, unfortunately, I think there were people that, and I’ll use an example, there’s no two ways about it: Paul Bussman lost because he was an incumbent and had a good candidate running against him that was well funded,” Marsh said, going back to the primary caveat. “And I’m telling you, any [incumbent] candidate that cycle in a primary that had a good candidate – regardless of how good the economy was and how good the person was- that had money behind them could’ve had a problem because of this anti-establishment message that the Trump team drove home.”

Reed built off of this, saying that in the general election, some of the election results could be chalked up to a referendum on Trump and his presidency, as he remains very popular in Alabama.

“Support of the Trump agenda became a strong focus for many of our candidates,” Reed advised.

Marsh gave the example of the most competitive Senate race, which was between Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) and Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay), with the pro tem saying that the “Trump coattails” factor was probably the difference between Stutts winning and losing.

He stated that their analytics had identified 8,000 more people in that district “that if they voted, they typically didn’t, but if they did they’d vote Republican.”

They were able to turn enough of this block out for Stutts to win an extremely tight battle.

When asked by Yellowhammer News if a similar situation existed in the Senate contest between Republican Andrew Jones and former Democratic Rep. Craig Ford (I-Gadsden), Marsh shared that their analytics and polling had shown that this race, while a “priority,” was not going to be as close as people in Montgomery thought it would be. The results bore their extensive data analysis out, as Jones blew Ford out by a margin of 60.6 percent to 39.2 percent.

This also reinforced their emphasis on straight ticket voting, as Ford ended up bearing all of the negatives of his Democratic past while not benefiting from straight-ticket Democratic votes.

“It was clear delineation,” Reed added of supporting Trump and his agenda in the general election. “At that point, at the end of the election cycle, we had already come through the Brett Kavanaugh issue, there had already been several things that were real focus issues at the federal level, so there was an easy way to draw a delineation between support of the president’s agenda. Whether it’s the Supreme Court, whether it’s infrastructure growth, whether it’s foreign affairs, whatever – supporting that at the state level was something that our Republican candidates could do that the others that were running really were not in a position to do. And, so, in the end, that was a strong topic – if you looked at the different issues that people were really enthusiastic about, if you were the candidate that was supporting the president’s agenda, then that was an important factor for a lot of voters.”

‘Icing on the cake’

Reed and Marsh specified that the Kavanaugh confirmation had been a large, positive spike in voter enthusiasm for Republicans, but that it gradually waned with time as the media coverage stopped and the election drew closer. However, Marsh brought up one very timely issue that certainly did not hurt conservative candidates in Alabama.

“[T]he icing on the cake was the march through Mexico of people approaching the border, which was ongoing every day,” Marsh said, referring to the caravan. “It’s almost like the closer they get to the border, the madder [Republican voters] got. So, there’s no doubt in my mind, that that was the icing on the cake, the end of the perfect storm.”

Speaking further of what solidified their electoral success, Marsh concluded that “between the analytics, the Kavanaugh [confirmation], between the march through Mexico, all that created a perfect day and allowed [the Senate Republican Caucus] to maximize” vote totals.

“And truly maximize,” Marsh added. “We won every single race we expected to win in the Senate. … It was the total defeat and collapse of this so-called Blue Wave.”

Reed stressed that their “long-term focus” paid off during the elections with “a clean sweep.” Now, the two Senate leaders will look to carry this momentum into the coming legislative session and quadrennium.

Be on the lookout for Yellowhammer News’ follow-up articles on what this will entail.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Shelby secures deal that would give Trump $4.59 billion more to combat border crisis

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Wednesday got legislation overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations that would provide $4.59 billion in emergency supplemental funding to address the crisis at the United States’ border with Mexico.

The compromise legislation was negotiated by Shelby, the powerful chairman of the committee, and committee vice chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The committee voted to advance the legislation by a remarkable vote of 30-1.

Before the committee voted, Shelby delivered remarks strongly supporting increased border security.

“The situation is past the breaking point. We must act,” he urged his colleagues.

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Shelby’s full remarks as follows:

The Committee will come to order. Today the Committee considers legislation to address the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis along our southern border.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 675,000 illegal immigrants have been apprehended or encountered at ports of entry so far this fiscal year.

Making this crisis even more acute, we are seeing a dramatic spike in the number of children and families making the dangerous journey north to the U.S.

Our personnel on the ground are doing everything they can to secure the border and care for these vulnerable populations.

But their determination has outstripped their resources.

Last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security stated the following:

“The volume and composition of populations arriving at the southern border are simply unsustainable. Unless Congress acts, the situation will continue to deteriorate – with grave consequences.”

The situation is past the breaking point. We must act.

I say to my colleagues, today the Appropriations Committee will act.

I am pleased that we will do so in a bipartisan manner, and I want to thank Vice Chairman Leahy for working with me to find common ground.

The legislation we bring before the Committee today contains a total of $4.59 billion to address the border crisis.

Of this amount, $2.9 billion is provided for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied children and placing them in suitable homes.

The legislation also includes $1.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to provide basic necessities – food, shelter and medical care – to adult migrants they detain.

An additional $145 million is provided for the Department of Defense, which has mobilized to help respond to the crisis.

And finally, $220 million is included for the Department of Justice, to help process immigration cases and detain dangerous individuals.

This package does not include everything I wanted.

It does not include everything Vice Chairman Leahy wanted.

But most importantly, it does not include poison pills from either party.

I ask for my colleagues’ cooperation in holding any such amendments until this package reaches the Senate floor – just like we did during the FY19 process with such great success.

In addition, I ask my colleagues to refrain from offering any amendments that pertain to broader immigration policy.

The appropriate venue for such amendments is the authorizing committee, and Chairman Graham is marking up immigration legislation in the Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

So I urge my colleagues interested in broader immigration policy to discuss their ideas with Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Feinstein.

By adhering to this framework I believe that we will be able to move forward together with a strong bipartisan vote here today.

Our border security professionals and the children and families in their care cannot afford further delay, and I am hopeful that a strong bipartisan vote will provide the momentum needed to assist our folks on the front lines.

Before I turn to Vice Chairman Leahy to offer his remarks and make a motion, I want expand briefly on the importance of moving forward together – not just on this package, but on fiscal year ’20 appropriations bills.

Coming to an agreement on topline numbers is very important, and I am working with Leader McConnell, Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi and Vice Chairman Leahy on that front.

But we also need to have agreement on keeping poison pills out of our process in fiscal year ’20.

That was the foundation of our success in fiscal year ’19.

And that is what is allowing us to move forward together here today.

I believe that my colleagues agree it should also be the basis for our work ahead.

If we show that critical mass is still behind this simple and proven framework, we can move bills quickly once we have topline numbers.

But if we start chipping away at it, I fear we will return to the old frustrations and failures of previous years.

Something none of us wants. I know I don’t.

And with that, I turn to my good friend and Vice Chairman, Senator Leahy, to offer his opening remarks and make a motion.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

7 Things: Trump campaign has cash, Moore to enter Senate race, reparations circus goes on and more …

7. Montgomery parents could start paying for their kids’ crimes

  • Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt has introduced a city ordinance that would require parents be punished when their children commit a crime, which is basically a copy of an ordinance that was introduced in South Fulton, Georgia, last year.
  • Legal transgressions committed by kids that could get their parents in trouble include drug and alcohol possession or use, failure to keep curfews, possession or use of firearms, truancy, improper supervision, theft and property damage.

6. The Hyde Amendment is here to stay — for now

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  • There has recently been a great deal of vocal opposition to the Hyde Amendment from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, but the Democrat-controlled House just reauthorized the Hyde Amendment.
  • This has been a big part of the Democrat presidential debate, but a vote on a spending bill that included the Hyde Amendment reauthorization passed 226-203. No Republicans voted for it and only six Democrats voted against it, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), noted historian and de facto leader of the Democratic Party.

5. A Syrian refugee was plotting an attack on a church in Pittsburgh

  • Mustafa Mousab Alowemer was admitted to the United States as a refugee in 2016, but now he is accused of planning an attack on the Legacy International Worship Center in Pittsburgh. The Department of Justice claims this was planned “to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States.” 
  • To bolster their government’s take on this, the DOJ released a statement that laid out Alowemer’s alleged crimes. It read, “Alowemer also distributed propaganda materials, offered to provide potential targets in the Pittsburgh area, requested a weapon with a silencer, and recorded a video of himself pledging an oath of allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

4. There will be no reparations

  • In the past, Democrats like President Barack Obama have opposed the proposition of paying slavery reparations. The Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties committee held a hearing to address the bill that would create a commission that would develop an answer to whether African-American citizens should be paid slavery reparations.
  • However, during the hearing, tensions were high and Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) was booed as he commented on the bill, “Putting aside the injustice of monetary reparations from current taxpayers for the sins of a small subset of Americans from many generations ago, the fair distribution of reparations would be nearly impossible when one considers the complexity of the American struggle to abolish slavery.”

3. Latest Roy Moore embarrassment kicks off today

  • Today, former Chief Justice Roy Moore will be announcing if he’s running for the Senate seat he lost to Doug Jones in 2017. But if he’s been waiting to announce without any real reason then he’s more than likely running, you do not hold this kind of an event to announce that you are not running for office.
  • Moore’s announcement will be held at 2:00 p.m. at The Ballroom in Montgomery and will likely kick off a campaign that is the dream of the media and their Democrats. Moore lost to Senator Doug Jones in 2017 and will definitely be the candidate Jones will favor in the Republican primary. 

2. Shelby wants less of Moore

  • With Roy Moore expected to announce his decision about whether he’ll be entering the 2020 U.S. Senate race on Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is once again pointing out that Moore is a terrible candidate, a position that President Donald Trump agrees with. He has advised Moore to not run.
  • Shelby said that Alabama could do better than Moore, as well as noting that if Moore as the nominee would make it harder for Republicans to win back that Senate seat, and then went on to mention that if former Attorney General Jeff Sessions were to enter the race he would “probably clear the field” and win the Republican primary and general election easily.

1. Money Trumps all?

  • President Trump officially announced his reelection bid in Florida on Tuesday, and less than 24 hours later his campaign announced that they’ve already raised $24.8 million, which is far more than all of the Democratic candidates combined in the first 24 hours of their election bids.
  • It was just this week that 2020 presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden announced that his campaign has raised about $20 million. Of course, despite his substantial fundraising, Trump is still polling lower than Biden by 10 points. However, it is way too early for that to matter.

3 hours ago

Mooney praises Trump for use of tariff threat on Mexico; Says immigration remains ‘a major issue’ for Alabamians

If the early stages of the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat up in 2020 is any indicator, immigration remains a front-burner issue for Alabamians.

That is how State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, views the subject as well.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Huntsville’s WVNN, the Shelby County Republican weighed in on the topic and offered President Donald Trump praise for his use of tariffs to force Mexico to pledge to be more proactive in stymying the flow of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border.

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“I think quite frankly, it got the results that were needed,” Mooney said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “We got people to the table. We got people there to cooperate, begin to solve the problem. You have got to use every tool that is in the toolbox. I’m a free trade person. I believe in that, but I also understand clearly that when you have a president who delivers on his threats in the manner Donald Trump has when he has challenged people to get them to the point of doing something and working on something, he’s been successful with that. They know he may do what he’s talking about. So, they tend to come and begin to negotiate. And then we get a resolution as such that is beneficial to us and beneficial to them.”

Mooney said among voters he has talked with on the campaign trail, the U.S. immigration system is one of their primary concerns.

“I hear consistently and constantly from voters in Alabama about immigration and how important it is and how much concern they have about it,” he added. “It is a major issue in this election, and it is a major issue for our nation, and it has got to be worked on and solved.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

DeKalb Co. deputies bust another illegal alien human smuggling operation

The DeKalb County criminal interdiction team on Wednesday busted yet another alleged human smuggling operation involving illegal aliens.

A press release from the sheriff’s office explained that the team was working the major highways and interstates within the county when interdiction deputies at approximately 10:30 a.m. conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle near the 218 mile marker of I-59.

After searching the vehicle, 10 illegal aliens were discovered.

An initial investigation determined a human smuggling operation was ongoing. The individuals were from El Salvador, Ecuador and Guatemala, according to the sheriff’s office.

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The Department of Homeland Security was then called to the scene and the suspects were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“This is another great job by our Interdiction Team. Even though we are far from the Southern Border, we can still play a role in enforcing our nation’s laws right here in DeKalb County,” Sheriff Nick Welden said.

“While it may seem that they were trying to start a new life in our country, these people are exploited and taken advantage of. Some have to pay thousands of dollars to be smuggled in and are made to work for inhumane wages,” he added.

The investigation is still ongoing and federal charges are pending.

Welden concluded, “Again, I’d like to thank our interdiction team for another job well done. God Bless!”

Nine illegal aliens were arrested after a similar traffic stop in DeKalb County just weeks ago.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum rules out Alabama 2020 U.S. Senate bid

Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum will not be a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

She told Yellowhammer News on Wednesday evening that she has finalized her decision and will not run, saying the timing was not right for her.

A Republican, she had been considering running for several months, even conducting polling in the spring to help make an informed decision.

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“Alabama has given so much to me. It would definitely be an honor to give back to the people of my state,” Whitestone said in a statement to Yellowhammer News earlier this year. “That being said, it is something my husband John and I are praying about.”

Whitestone, a Dothan native, is also a former Miss Alabama. She made history as the first deaf Miss America, having fully lost her hearing when she was 18-months old. Whitestone underwent a cochlear implant surgery to partially restore her hearing in 2002.

She has authored multiple faith-centric books, including “Listening With My Heart,” “Believing The Promise,” “Let God Surprise You” and “Heavenly Crowns.” She is a graduate of Berry High School (now Hoover High School) and Jacksonville State University.

Whitestone, 46, has lived in Georgia for over two decades, having moved there after marrying her husband, John McCallum. She and John met when they were both serving as aides to then-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). John ran unsuccessfully for Congress himself in 2014. She and her husband have three children.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) are the credible candidates who have formally announced Republican candidacies to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) thus far.

Unsuccessful 2017 Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore will announce Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in Montgomery whether he will join that field.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is expected to make an announcement on his potential Senate bid next week after filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn