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It's Not Too Early to Start Running for Governor

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Opinion: It's Not Too Early to Start Running for Governor

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My math may surprise people, but the next general election for a California governor is only 20 months away -- and so it may already be time to start running.

Wait a minute! Surely that can't be right you say -- the next general election for governor isn't until November 2014, which is a little more than two years away. Isn't it?

Nope. The new top-two system for elections has changed anything.

General elections, in state elections, aren't in November anymore. The top-two system abolished primaries, replacing it with two rounds of elections.

And the first round is the real general election -- when all the candidates of all the parties are on the ballot. That's when voters have the most choice -- the only time they are guaranteed to be able to select candidates from their own party. Under the top two, the November election is a run-off, with only two candidates. In some cases, the run-offs involve two members of the same party. So if you want to vote for someone of your own party, you should show up in June.

In 2014, the new top-two rules -- with the general election in June -- will apply to the governorship for the first time. This will put all candidates of all parties on the same ballot in June 2014. This should move the calendar up. In the last gubernatorial election cycle, candidates like Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner were running two years ahead of schedule. That seemed awfully early back then. This time around, there are few signs that anyone is running yet.

But if you're poorly known and want to make a run in 2014, now would be a good time to start. Indeed, injecting yourself into the debate over the budget, and the contest between Propositions 30 and 38, might be one way to get noticed.

Either way, look for some action to begin on the Republican side after the November election. Democrats will wait for Gov. Jerry Brown to decide. But given his proclivities for delay, they may have to wait a very long time for him. So the most pressing question may be whether -- and when -- a high-profile Democratic challenger like LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gets tired of waiting, and jumps in.

The time of decision is sooner than you think. We'll be choosing the next governor -- or at least the top two candidates for the job -- in just two springs.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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