Just hours after Gov. Kay Ivey, R-Ala., moved up a special election for Alabama's Senate seat, prospective candidates were already angling to enter the Southern Thunderdome. None seemed more eager to mount a challenge than the second-ranking elected official in the state.
"I won't lie. I'm getting a lot of calls from a lot of people," Senate President Pro-Tempore Del Marsh told me over the phone shortly after the governor's announcement. "If I have to tell you today, I'm leaning yes, I'm leaning toward running. I've got to check a few more boxes here though."
The governor has set the contest for August, and Marsh plans to make a decision this week. Currently, the seat is held by the appointee of disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned last week. Bentley appointed now-Sen. Luther Strange, recently the state's attorney general, whom Marsh refused to endorse for the Senate.
"No, sir. I just wouldn't," Marsh explained Tuesday. "I just think someone else can do a better job for the state as our U.S. senator."
That's harsh, but unsurprising, criticism. Only three months old, Strange's young Senate career has lived up to his name. Before accepting Bentley's appointment, Strange was investigating the sordid sex scandal of the former governor. While that investigation has come to a close, Strange is still weathering allegations of the quid pro quo variety.
But the 6' 9" senator hasn't shied away from a challenge. Since taking office, Strange's electoral message has been the same: any place, any time.
"As I've said for months, I'm a candidate and I'm ready to run whether the election is next month or next year," Strange said in an announcement Tuesday. "As the only announced candidate for this office, I will spend the next several months being the best Senator I can be."
With a war chest worth a whopping $763,612, plus statewide name recognition, Strange will be difficult to topple. A wealthy former businessman, Marsh would have to cut his campaign a hefty check if he hopes to be competitive. He's not completely starting from scratch though. Until the shakeup at the governor's mansion, Marsh was readying a bid for that office.
Now that the Senate seat is back in play, Marsh is back in campaign mode. And while nothing's final, he sounds like a candidate. "What I'm going to be doing is talking about my record, my accomplishments, and how I can lead as a Senator," he explained, then quickly added, "if I were to get into the race."
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.