RINCON — Savannah’s Danny Merritt fervently believes that Washington, D.C., is desperate for elected officials who view the world through the prism of service.
That is why Merritt, a decorated Army officer and successful businessman, is seeking to unseat Rep. Buddy Carter of the First Congressional District in the May 19 Republican primary.
“I really want to see veteran leadership in Congress, mainly because we know what service means — putting everybody else first,” Merritt said during a Feb. 25 campaign stop at El Real. “I think, basically, what I’ve been seeing is a lot of self-serving politicians that make a lot of money. They go into office and they come out filthy rich.”
Merritt, who launched his campaign more than eight months ago, also believes that Congress is focused on the wrong things. He thinks it is out of touch with the people.
“I’ve spent all my time talking to small business owners, going to meet the farmers, folks in the timber industry and folks who are trying to grow oysters here,” he said. “Really. I’ve been trying to learn and understand what the average person in this district is struggling with and then figuring out what I need to go fight for in Washington, D.C. I’ve done a lot of listening.”
Merritt said elected officials are giving lip service to the issues that matter most.
“They haven’t seen anything really get accomplished,” Merritt said. “It’s not like they can say, ‘Hey, this got done. Your prescription costs went down.’ No, they didn’t. ‘Your deductibles went down.’ No, they didn’t.
“My taxes went down, but that’s due to President Trump. That has nothing to do with Congress.
“What I’ve been seeing is congressmen, specifically Buddy Carter, riding the president’s coattails hard due to a lack of personal accomplishments. That is unfortunate because there is always something that can get done. We learned that in the military.”
Merritt, owner Nine Line Apparel, is currently a major in the U.S. Army Reserve. He was commissioned in 2005 and earned a Bronze Star as a platoon leader while serving in the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq in 2008.
“What I bring to the table is that I build relationships,” he said. “I’ve done it in private business, in the military, in foreign countries and I’ve done it with bad guys. What I can do is leverage my ability to build relationships across the aisle and start to use those relationships to get things done that will impact people here.”
Merritt thinks veterans-related issues are areas that a consensus could be reached. He decided to run for Congress because of the runaround he received while trying to help a friend who sought treatment for substance abuse at a VA facility.
“We are so far from where we need to be in tackling veterans’ issues — specifically, taking care of veterans at the clinic level at the VA facility,” Merritt said. “There is a correlation between the 22 service members who are killing themselves every single day and the lack of ability of the VA to help out with mental health and substance abuse. It’s a really easy fix and it’s a bipartisan issue, so why haven’t we done it?
“That’s something that I will be kicking and screaming about, making as many friends as I need to and then beating down as many doors as I need to because that one hits home for me.”
Merritt said the cost of health care is a top concern for voters in the district.
“I like competition,” he said. “Any way that you can increase competition or get regulation out of the way is good.”
Merritt said his candidacy hasn’t been embraced by state and national Republican leaders.
“They’ve already denied me access to (voter) data,” he said. “Also, Buddy Carter has yet to agree to a debate with me. He doesn’t want to give me any spotlight or name recognition. He has all the money in the world and I don’t, so there is no upside for him personally.
“But here is the problem. The upside isn’t for him. The upside is for the people who live in this district to be able to have a clear contrast — how would Danny Merritt handle an issue versus how Buddy Carter would handle it.”
Merritt has challenged Carter to debate numerous times through the media. He doesn’t plan to let up.
“This is the first time voters have an actual option to change the game on our ticket as opposed to changing parties,” he said. “I’m going to keep beating on him until he says, ‘Yes.’”
The winner of the GOP primary will take on Democrat Lisa Ring or Barbara Seidman in the general election.
To learn more about Merritt, https://www.merrittforcongress.com/.