John Merrill

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday admitted to an extramarital affair and said he would not be seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Richard Shelby in 2022.

Reports of a three-year affair between Merrill and Cesaire McPherson began circulating Tuesday. Merrill initially denied the relationship but later admitted to AL.com that he and McPherson had an "inappropriate relationship" with McPherson. The relationship reportedly began in November, 2017 and ended in November, 2020.

Merrill told AL.com, “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. 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.”

Merrill had been expected to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat in coming weeks. On Wednesday, he sent out a statement saying he would not be seeking that seat or any other in 2022.

In it, he said, “Since January of 2015, it has been my honor to serve as the 53rd Secretary of State of Alabama. During my time in office, we implemented America’s toughest voter ID law, slashed our office budget and saved Alabama families millions, and made government operate at the speed of business, as opposed to the speed of government.

“With the end of my term coming up in January of 2023, I have been presented with a variety of options for where my path in public service could lead. 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.

“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.

“I am incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support of many Alabamians throughout our great state. I am surrounded by a great team and we look forward to finishing the goals we set out to achieve before our term ends in January of 2023. I will follow the path the Lord puts in front of me to see what happens next. Regardless, I am extraordinarily proud of all that we have been able to accomplish in the last six years, two months, and 19 days that I have had the esteemed privilege of serving as your 53rd Secretary of State.”

Two candidates, both with ties to former President Donald Trump, have announced their intent to seek the Senate seat. Lynda Blanchard, who was Trump's ambassador to Slovenia, and Congressman Mo Brooks, who spear-headed a last-ditch effort to overturn the presidential election, have announced their candidacy. Earlier, Trump said he was supporting Brooks' campaign.

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