The race for governor has come down to the question of who might finish second, since Gavin Newsom has a persistent lead in polls.

But don’t be surprised – and don’t overreact – if there’s a surprise in the top slot on June 5. John Cox could finish first.

It’s not likely but it’s hardly out of the question.

The election is likely to be low turnout. There’s been little coverage, and, as I never tire of pointing out, the state and the media have incorrectly labeled the June election as a “primary” election, even though the voters abolished primaries in favor of the current top two system. Primary elections have dismal turnouts, and those turnouts have sunk by about one-third over the last generation. In 2014, the turnout was a record low, 25 percent of registered voters. It may not be that low this time, but it shouldn’t be much higher.

The three leading Democrats in the race are engaged in negative attacks against each other. That could weaken all three. And the Democratic vote is further divided by the presence of Delaine Eastin and a host of other unknown Democrats on a long and confusing ballot.

On the Republican side, Cox has what little name recognition there is. He got the endorsement of Donald Trump; on any level of morality or human decency, a California politician should reject the backing of a lying, racist president who has invented a tale about millions of undocumented immigrants voting. But in this June election, the Trump endorsement may help him pull votes away from Travis Allen. So may the realization among Republicans that dividing votes between Cox and Allen could leave the party without a candidate in the top two, thus hurting the GOP’s chances of holding onto House seats in November.

So a swing to Cox among Republicans is likely, while Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, and John Chiang divide up votes and hurt one another.

If Cox does emerge in first place, or even very close to Newsom, it wouldn’t be a new phenomenon. Republican Ashley Swearengin finished first in the June 2014 election for controller, outpointing Betty Yee as three Democratic candidates divided the vote. That same year, Republican Pete Peterson ran within a point of Democrat Alex Padilla in the first round of voting for Secretary of State, as Democrats and an independent divided up the votes. But such outcomes wouldn’t change the ultimate outcome: Democrats winning statewide. In the 2014 general election, Yee beat Swearengin by 7, and Padilla beat Peterson, also by 7 points. And Swearengin and Peterson were easily the strongest and most mainstream Republican candidates of this decade.

Of course, such an outcome would make news. Cox might get a bit more attention from what’s left of the political media, but it’s not clear such attention would be good for him, given how he’s tied himself to Trump’s bigoted agenda. And Trump would likely exploit public ignorance over our dumb top two system to claim some kind of victory.

But don’t be surprised if Cox ends up on top. Because top two creates strange outcomes and perverse surprises.