When is a run for office not just a run for office? In California under the top two system.

Or to put it another way: Top two has turned California politics into an English murder mystery. Every candidate is a suspect.

Amanda Renteria, a longtime political aide and strategist, is the latest to experience this reality. Her jump into the governor’s race was not accepted at face value—and not just because it came late or because she was slow to address her candidacy.

It was because of top two. Since there are no longer primaries in California, every additional candidate in a race from one party potentially weakens the chances of that party. Renteria, by getting in, could take votes from other Democrats—in her case Antonio Villaraigosa and Delaine Eastin, thus weakening them.

And she also could weaken the party as a whole. Because in top two, if a party splits its vote too many ways, it makes it harder to advance candidates to the top two runoff. In top two, you want your party to have fewer candidates—the ideal number is two—so two of the same party advance.

Republican Doug Ose experienced similar skepticism when he jumped into the governor’s race fairly late as well. He became a third significant Republican candidate when the first two candidates weren’t polling very high. That further splits the diminished GOP vote. Thus, Ose weakened his party – making it harder for a Republican to make the top two runoff.

Renteria’s defenders and Ose’s defenders have blamed everything from sexism to ideological bias for the criticism the candidates have faced for their late entries. But such blame is nonsense. The reason why these campaigns face such skepticism is because California clings to an anti-democratic election system, the top two.