IT’S LIKE A WHOLE OTHER COUNTRY….The writing was on the wall. Two weeks ago, Texas Comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn dropped hints that she’d consider leaving a GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry (R) and commissioned a poll asking Texans about a scenario in which Strayhorn ran as an independent. Today, she made it official.

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn turned her back on the Republican Party and announced Monday she will run for governor as an independent.

The move allows Strayhorn to escape a potentially ugly primary battle against Gov. Rick Perry. The GOP primary is set for March 7.

Strayhorn, who calls herself “One Tough Grandma,” has been a harsh critic of Perry’s leadership over the past couple of years…. “I am a Republican,” she said. “But I know we must set partisan politics aside and do what’s best for Texas. That is why I am running for governor as a Texas independent.”

It sets up one of the more entertaining gubernatorial contests of the year. At this point — and, given recent history, conditions can still change — we have one vulnerable incumbent Republican (Perry), a Republican running as an independent (Strayhorn), a musician/writer/humorist running as an independent (Kinky Friedman), and two very credible Democrats (former Rep. Chris Bell and former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage).

Will Strayhorn peel off Perry’s Republican support? Will Friedman be taken seriously enough as a candidate to compete? Will White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Strayhorn’s son, help his mother’s campaign?

This one’s going to be fun to watch. Pass the popcorn.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.