The prizefight for the brass ring of Alabama politics has begun. The Race for Governor is in full swing. The bell rang for the first round in June. That is officially when fundraising can begin. The law allows for all candidates in 2010 to start raising campaign money in June, one year prior to next year’s primaries.

There are eight announced candidates at this time. That is a lot less than most people expected given the fact that the Governor’s office is wide open. Incumbent Gov. Bob Riley is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term. There are six Republican candidates. Former postsecondary Chancellor Bradley Byrne, Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, Greenville businessman Tim James, State Treasurer Kay Ivey, State Representative Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa, and former ADECA Director Bill Johnson.

Byrne is considered the frontrunner. Prior to taking over the helm of the Junior College system two years ago, he was a State Senator from Baldwin County for six years and served on the State School Board before being elected to the State Senate. He has made a career of doing battle with the Alabama Education Association. He lined up against them his entire tenure on the State School Board, fought them as a State Senator and has been their most ardent opponent as the two-year college chancellor. He will make this anti-AEA mantra his hallmark calling card in his quest for Governor.

Byrne has the most impressive anti-AEA resume on the block. It won’t be rhetoric or window dressing. He has walked the walk. Byrne will run against Paul Hubbert and the AEA and is also perceived as the Bob Riley candidate. It is doubtful that Riley will openly endorse a candidate in the primary. However, that may be academic. Most of Riley’s supporters will be in Byrne’s camp.

Byrne will sell well. He is 54 years old and has been married 28 years with 4 children. In addition to his political resume, he has been a business oriented defense lawyer for 25 years. He is a fourth generation Alabamian. His ancestors settled in Baldwin County prior to 1800, before Alabama was a state.

Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, has been running for Governor for close to 18 months. He believes in the adage, “the early bird gets the worm.” He seems to be the forgotten candidate of the campaign. Like Rodney Dangerfield, he seems to not get any respect. James ran poorly in 2002 when he challenged Bob Riley, receiving less than 10% of the primary vote. However, he has put $2 million of his own money and a year and a half of his life into this campaign. He has to have made some inroads somewhere and should not be taken lightly.

Roy Moore received 33% of the GOP Primary vote against Bob Riley in 2006. However, I have to think that he has lost some of his glitter in four more years out of the limelight. The luster of his Ten Commandments stand probably has diminished with time. My guess is that Moore’s time has passed.

Kay Ivey was probably never going to be a serious contender in the Governor’s Race. However, the prepaid college tuition debacle has pretty much sealed the deal on her gubernatorial aspirations. Robert Bentley will be an also ran like Ivey.

My prognostication one year out is that Bradley Byrne leads the GOP field with 35% of the vote. Tim James edges Roy Moore out of the runoff with James receiving 25% to Moore’s 22%. Ivey will receive 9%, Bentley 6% and Johnson 3%. In the runoff, Byrne bests James 55% to 45%.

With Jim Folsom out of the Governor’s Race, Congressman Artur Davis is clearly the frontrunner on the Democratic side. However, there are still a good many rural white Democrats, especially in North Alabama. Ron Sparks will get most of their votes. My guess is that Davis bests Sparks 55% to 45% in the Democratic Primary.

My belief is that Bradley Byrne is the Republican nominee and Artur Davis is the Democratic standard bearer. My prediction is that Bradley Byrne bests Artur Davis 58% to 42% in the fall of 2010. This prediction is predicated on the fact that these are the eight horses in the race. All bets are off if a heavyweight dark horse enters the race.