If you want to see a candidate for California governor go to Los Angeles. The leading Democrat in the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, will be in Los Angeles much of the summer, piling up speaking engagements. The only announced Republican in the race, John Cox, has dozens of speaking engagements on his calendar in the near term in Los Angeles and Southern California. Treasurer John Chiang kicked off his “one-year road trip” listening campaign in Los Angeles this week. The voter rich Los Angeles region is about to become the hot center of the governor’s race.

There are many voters in the Los Angeles area but compared to the Bay Area they are more politically apathetic. The job of the gubernatorial candidates will to fire up those voters and have them march to the polls.

Of course, there are a couple of other declared or potential candidates who have wide recognition in Los Angeles. Former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has visited other parts of the state, especially the Central Valley, in his nascent campaign. He feels comfortable with his name recognition and support in L.A. If current Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti gets into the gubernatorial race that would scramble Villaraigosa’s calculations.

Newsom wants to cut into Villaraigosa’s familiarity advantage in Los Angeles and neighboring counties, especially with a recent poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies showing Villaraigosa closing in on Newsom.

Yet, having homegrown familiarity is not a guarantee of electoral success.

Two-term Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley faced San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris for the open attorney general’s job in 2010. Harris barely squeaked out a victory capturing 46.1% of the vote to Cooley’s 45.3%. In total votes, Harris topped Cooley by just 74,157 votes out of over 8.5 million cast. But Cooley, despite his previous success in his home county, lost the election in Los Angeles. Harris racked up a 300-thousand plus advantage in L.A. County.

Los Angeles presents challenges and opportunity for gubernatorial candidates.

Checking the numbers of the last open governor’s race tells a story. In 2010, Jerry Brown defeated Meg Whitman 53.8% to 40.9%. At the time only three counties had over a million registered voters—all in the south: Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego. But while counties including and surrounding San Francisco had voter turnout in that election of 60% to 70%, Los Angeles came in at 53% and Orange County at 55%.

That’s a lot of potential voters in the populated Southern California counties that can insure a victory in a hotly contested race. Turnout is always a key in election campaigns. Whether the governor’s race attracts more voters than in recent elections is uncertain. Turnout statewide of registered voters has hovered around–mostly just under–60% in recent elections. In fact, there is a gap of nearly 40 years since the last gubernatorial election surpassed a 70% turnout when Jerry Brown defeated Evelle Younger in 1978.

What is certain is that Los Angeles will play a major role in the governor’s race next year and apparently that race to capture Los Angeles voters starts now.