Election 2020-Alabama

FILE — In this Tuesday June 25 , 2019, file photo, Secretary of State John Merrill announces that he is running for the U.S. Senate during a news conference at the State Capital Building in Montgomery. In a statement posted on his Facebook page Sunday, Dec. 1, Merrill announced he has suspended his campaign for the U.S. Senate, citing a crowded Republican race that recently grew to include former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP, File)

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill suspended his campaign for the U.S. Senate on Sunday, citing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' entrance into the crowded Republican race.

Merrill announced his decision in a statement posted on his Facebook page.

Merrill said he "saw a path to victory" when he entered the race in June, but that Sessions' decision to join the field last month "dramatically" changed the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in 2020.

"With Senator Sessions' late entry into this race, we have come to realize that a crowded Republican primary only benefits Doug Jones and the out of touch liberal Democrats," Merrill said in the statement.

Others contending for the GOP nomination include former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Roy Moore, the right-wing lightning rod who faced allegations of sexual misconduct and lost to Jones in the 2017 special election.

Jones is the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Alabama.

The large field has increased the chances that the March 3 GOP primary will head to a runoff if no candidate tops 50% of the primary vote.

Merrill, who has previously said he considers Sessions one of his heroes, did not make an endorsement in the statement. He said he would continue to serve as Alabama's secretary of state.

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