It’s impossible not to like or respect Danny Merritt, the young warrior, successful businessman, husband, dad (of four), and member of the extended National Review family who is now turning his attention to politics: He has launched a primary challenge against Congressman Buddy Carter, the incumbent Republican who has held Georgia’s first-district seat since 2015.
The co-founder, with his brother Tyler, of the enormously popular Nine Line Apparel, Merritt — a decorated Army officer (now a major in the reserves) and combat veteran who was a platoon leader in Iraq in 2008 prior to serving in Afghanistan with the 1st Cavalry Division — threw his helmet in the ring this May because he believes that more veterans need to serve in Congress. A strong supporter of President Trump, he would make VA reform a priority. His campaign, so far, has been grass-roots and self-funded.
In a recent interview with American Military News, Merritt described a key motivation for running: lawmakers cashing in on their office: “So many times we see our representatives are using their positions to enrich themselves, to improve their own lives or the lives of their family members. Everybody scratches each other backs. . . . Americans are sick and tired of it.” Describing himself as a “complete outsider” who is “completely new to politics,” Merritt says he will “have a fresh look at how things are done and be able to do things differently,” adding, “I’ve done that in business and in combat and been successful, and I’m hoping to do that in Congress.”
A strong conservative who is a great admirer of Rush Limbaugh, Merritt is in particular a fan of federalism, which he claims is “very close to my heart”:
The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees states’ rights and it should be consistently reaffirmed at the Federal Level. The centralized power of Washington needs to be relinquished to the states and their local communities. A one size fits all policy that works well on paper in Washington will not be effective for all cities within the nation, the State of Georgia, or the First Congressional District. Federal overreach, which has been happening at a growing and startling rate, causes the degradation of our states’ rights and local rights. Policy is best handled at the local level where the needs of the society are best understood.
Launched in 2012 (co-founder / brother Tyler is a West Point grad who flew helicopter combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan), Nine Line has resonated nationally because of its “relentlessly patriotic” stance, its veteran-intensive principles (the booming Savannah-based business employs over 200) and related philanthropy, and the promotion of a “brother’s keeper” culture that makes respect for Old Glory a top corporate tenet. (In 2017 Merritt, while still a Nine Line co-owner, launched Georgia Land and Cattle, a “Southern lifestyle” company marketing everything from jerky to jackets.)
Nine Line also gained national attention earlier this year when CBS rejected its ’Murica-loving “Just Stand” Super Bowl ad (watch it here).
Here’s my 2013 interview with Dan about the founding of Nine Line. Merritt’s dad (also named Dan) is well known to fans of Bill Buckley’s classic sailing books. Dad Dan, WFB’s Connecticut neighbor, served as crewmate on his storied Atlantic and Pacific voyages. In the interview, Merritt told a great story about this magazine’s founder:
Anyway, I have a particularly fond memory of Mr. Buckley that not many people know. I was a young kid, about 13 years old, and I made my way down to Yacht Haven, the marina in Stamford, where Mr. Buckley’s boat Patito was docked. I was fishing off the boat all alone — or thought I was — smoking one of Mr. Buckley’s cigars. As I was fishing, the boat rocked back and forth, and Mr. Buckley appeared out of nowhere, catching me, a 13-year-old, in the act of smoking his cigar. I thought I was in big trouble. But he just looked at me and said, “Are you enjoying that cigar?” Scared, I said, “Yes, Mr. Buckley.” He said, “Good. They are expensive.”