At that time, newspapers around the state (including The Star) speculated that the "arena" would be the governor's race.
It is. It should be no surprise that Bradley Byrne is running — first to be the GOP nominee, then to be the possible successor to Gov. Bob Riley.
Byrne is not the only one.
Against him for the Republican nomination is Greenville businessman Tim James, Tuscaloosa state Rep. Robert Bentley and Roy Moore, the former chief justice who announced his candidacy on Monday. State Treasurer Kay Ivey is expected to enter the fray soon.
Vying for the Democratic nomination are U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham and Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks — so far. Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb has yet to announce her plans.
All of these candidates bring special qualifications to the contest, but they also bring political enemies and supporters who will spend money and time to get their man (so far, they are all men) elected.
Despite James' business connections, Byrne is more likely to get support from the commercial community. His record on economic development while a state senator will be more appealing to business in these hard times. But the former chancellor will face strong opposition from one of the most special of the state's "special interests."
While many Republicans love him for the way he took on the Alabama Education Association — and for that reason alone they will support him as their nominee — the AEA is going to rally its resources to defeat him, perhaps in the primary. In this sort of donnybrook, darkhorse Bentley might make it to a runoff with either Byrne, James or Moore. In an ironic way, the AEA, either through positive action or negative association, may determine the Republican nominee.
Moore's announcement Monday places another element into the GOP side of the gubernatorial race. Though he lost by a wide primary margin to Riley in 2006, Moore may well appeal to the state's many evangelical Republican voters — which will make the GOP ballot extremely interesting.
In the Democratic contest, the state's other significant special interest — agriculture — would like nothing more than to have Sparks as that party's nominee, and would like little less than seeing the nomination go to Davis. But Sparks is something of an anomaly.
Agriculture has increasingly sought support and protection in the Republican Party, and Sparks is a Democrat. Will his party label hurt him or help him in the primary?
Which Democrat will the AEA support? Odds are that it will be Davis, but in this campaign even that is not a sure thing.
So get ready for a wild primary season. It promises to be a dandy.