As the Republican field for governor began to formulate almost two years ago, the players crystallized early in the game. They all figured that the winner of the GOP primary would have a cakewalk to the Governor’s office because they assumed that an aloof, intellectual, mild-mannered, Harvard educated, African American congressman named Artur Davis would be their Democratic opponent. In the Heart of Dixie that is called a free pass. In basketball vernacular it is referred to as a slam dunk. Every major GOP player saw a clear shot at being governor. The only hurdle they faced was the Republican primary because winning the Republican nomination would be tantamount to election.

As the race began in earnest over a year out in mid 2009, most so-called experts projected a Bradley Byrne and Tim James runoff simply because these two had the money. Bradley Byrne was a 55 year old Fairhope lawyer, former State School Board member, two-term State Senator and Chancellor of the State Junior College System. He began running two years in advance of the election. Byrne became the anointed candidate of the Big Business community. It was also known that he was Gov. Bob Riley’s choice for governor. With these credentials he took on the mantle of frontrunner.

Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, had made a halfhearted run for governor in 2002 when Riley was first elected. He ran poorly but really did not put a lot of effort into that race. James changed his tune in 2010 and gave it his all. Being a former Auburn football player like his dad, he gave it the old fashioned college try. He campaigned fulltime for two years, spent $2 million of his own money and brought in the best professional staff that money could buy. He was determined to give it his best effort.

From the onset the elephant in the field was former Chief Justice Roy Moore. He would be relegated to being a one issue candidate. Moore’s famous stance as the Ten Commandments Judge made him the darling of the religious right. These voters comprise approximately 25% of the GOP primary vote in Alabama. Therefore, early polling showed Moore was going to get 20-25% and no more. However, he would probably not make the runoff with this threshold limitation and very little money. Therefore, the other serious players would have to work around Moore’s capture of 20% of the vote from the get go.

Dr. Robert Bentley appeared to be relegated to being a likeable also ran. He was expected to finish in a respectable 4th place.

As the race began, Bradley Byrne forged to the front with his overwhelming money edge. He was the candidate of Big Business and they put their money where their mouth was and delivered for Byrne. He wound up raising and spending $7 million.

The race appeared to be Byrne’s to lose. However, as is the case in politics, funny things happen on the way to a coronation. Byrne’s career had been built around not only opposing but openly lambasting Dr. Paul Hubbert and the AEA. Byrne picked on the wrong enemy.

Eight governors have come and gone since Dr. Hubbert’s famous David vs. Goliath victory over George Wallace in the 1970’s. Dr. Hubbert has rendered every governor hapless and irrelevant in the budget process. His strength is derived from controlling the Legislature. He usually could care less who is governor because the governor plays second fiddle to him when it comes to education dollars. Therefore, it surprised the Byrne team when Hubbert decided to destroy Byrne.

We will continue with the Republican Primary for Governor next week.

See you next week.