The election to choose California’s governor is still about four months away yet two columns appeared in Los Angeles papers Monday discussing the governor’s race in 2018 – Jim Newton in the Los Angeles Times wrote about three potential Democratic candidates who might be the next governor; John Phillips in the Los Angeles Register discussed possible candidates from both major political parties.

I understand – most journalists don’t think the race for governor will be close this year and there is theoretically great drama with an open gubernatorial seat and a slew of potential viable candidates over the horizon.

But let’s not pass up this year’s race too quickly.

While the odds makers give Republican candidate Neel Kashkari no chance in knocking off Governor Jerry Brown to grab the gubernatorial brass ring, there are issues to be discussed in this year’s contest and that debate could lay out a direction for the state as well as setting the foundation for that governor’s contest four years from now.

Two issues expected to be highlighted in this year’s contest are transportation and education. The transportation issue will build around the high-speed rail project. That’s Jerry Brown’s baby. He sees the future of California in that project. Neel Kashkari calls it the “crazy train” hoping to reach the majority of voters who are against the project.

However, the bullet train is only a stand-in for the bigger issue of how best to spend transportation dollars; how to move the millions of Californians that are already here and the many more demographers are expecting in the near future.

How to best educate California students is a central issue following the Vergara decision on teacher tenure and the rise in the parent trigger and charter school movements. There is a recognition that education reform must occur. Kashkari calls it the civil rights issue of our time. Brown knows he also has to address that issue, but how he does it – and how his party accepts his education decisions — will have impact not only now but also on the election in four years. The California Teachers Association, the biggest spenders in California politics and a major supporter of the Democratic Party, will be a major player in the 2018 election.

The Newton piece in the L.A. Times focused on three potential gubernatorial candidates – all Democrats: Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Newton said these were the three candidates the pundits and experts he talked to mentioned as the possible next governor.

Phillips mentioned these three individuals as well and tossed in a fourth potential Democratic candidate: actor George Clooney.

Phillips also suggested that if Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin wins her controller’s race, she would be a viable Republican candidate for the post, as would former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

We’re four-plus years away, a lifetime in politics. There are other possible candidates who may see an opportunity to run especially because of the top two primary rules. Many a politician might weigh the possibility of slipping into the top two finishers if a crowded primary splits the vote.

On the Republican side add San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and GOP party chief Jim Brulte for starters. If Neel Kashkari runs a respectable race against difficult odds why would he not be considered again with no legendary incumbent to take on?

On the Democratic side there is hedge fund billionaire turned environmental activist Tom Steyer and likely soon-to-be state senator and past assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg who could take a look at the race.

There, I’ve done it, I jumped into the speculation pool when I started this column amazed that such speculation about 2018 was going on even before this year’s election.

We should see what comes out of the 2014 race first before thinking about 2018 – I guess, not the thing to do if you want to be considered a cutting edge pundit (or political consultant, for that matter.)