There’s been some heavy campaigning over the last few months, but the opening round of the gubernatorial primary race will begin Jan. 1. Voters will have finally finished the Christmas ham leftovers and grown tired of their new toys, they’ll be ready to take a look at the crowded field of 10 contenders.

The five Republicans looking to replace Gov. Mark Sanford will meet for the first time in the new year at a S.C. Republican Party debate in Charleston on Jan. 28. The event at the Memminger Auditorium will be hosted by MSNBC’s token conservative Joe Scarborough.

“It is great that the first Republican debate of 2010 will be held here because Charleston is a microcosm of the whole state,” says organizer Mallory Factor. “The path to Republican victory in November is through Charleston.”

It should be noted that this microcosm supported Barack Obama and Democratic Congressional candidate Linda Ketner in 2008.