The Republican field seeking a shot at the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Doug Jones is becoming crowded with the addition of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
Merrill, as expected, made his announcement Tuesday to enter the Republican side of the race. He joins a field of Republican candidates that includes U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Fairhope, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, state Rep. Arnold Mooney of Shelby County, and Haleyville businessman Stanley Adair.
Everyone in the race is taking aim at Jones, the only Democrat to hold a statewide office and the first to do so since Sen. Howell Heflin retired in 1997.
Many of the candidates in the Republican field, which could grow to an even higher number, have name recognition. Byrne already sits in Congress. Merrill travels the state extensively as secretary of state and frequents public events. Tuberville gained plenty of fame as the head football coach at Auburn, while Moore is known to just about anyone who has read a news story.
What will be challenging for voters is dissecting the intent of these candidates in reaching a conclusion to the Republican primary.
All of the candidates want to unseat Jones. That’s been repeated many times.
But who among these candidates can rise up to show he is Senate-worthy?
Jones cannot be the defining issue of six candidates in a primary. They will have to battle among themselves and prove their credentials and abilities to the voters just to get a shot at the standing senator in March 2020.
A race full of prominent individuals also holds the risk of a political meltdown. The fight should be spirited, but if it becomes ugly with character attacks with the group, voters may become dismayed.
The epic battle between Bill Baxley and Charlie Graddick that led to the election of Guy Hunt as governor is always a reminder in politics that candidates can go too far in their quest to rise to the top.
As the campaign gets under way, we encourage that the candidates engage in numerous debates and outline their views on issues facing Alabama and the nation. The voters will be able to make informed decisions in both the primary and general election when the topics are clearly about their interests and needs.