It may seem a bit strange that Gov. Gavin Newsom has already declared he is running for governor in 2018, more than three and a half years before the actual election. Or it may just seem strategic, given the advantages of getting out in front in a state that doesn’t pay much attention to politics.
But let’s also be clear – starting early in running for governor of California is also the right thing to do.
Right in the moral sense, right in the sense of being appropriate, right in the sense of preparation.
Being governor is not only a huge job, it might be the hardest in U.S. politics. California governors have huge responsibilities, but they are also deeply, maddeningly constrained by our state’s unwieldy constitution and its badly broken election and budget systems.
If you want to make big change – and California needs big changes – then you should get started early, very early. Preparing not just for a campaign but also for holding the office can and should be a full-time job for many years. You need to learn not the issues – since Newsom or other candidates of similar experience know the issues – but also all the strange and peculiar rules that California produces around issues, and that hamstring efforts to make change.
And since California needs a fundamental redesign of its governance system, thinking about how to do it is also a very big, years-long project. Any candidate who isn’t thinking about this shouldn’t be governor.
The particulars of the transition of power in 2018 also require long preparation. Gov. Brown has had a very narrow agenda and has played his cards close to the vest. He seems unlikely to change his approach, which means that whoever wins in 2018 will have the opportunity and challenge of dealing with vast realms of state government and the state itself that have been ignored for years.
The next governor best be ready. Newsom, by jumping in early, has signaled that he is committed to making himself ready. If there are others who want the job, they should join him in beginning now.