John Cox’s sad excuse for a gubernatorial candidate, confirmed by a sorry performance on Monday’s radio debate raises the question: What would a serious Republican candidate for governor look like?

The fact that Cox, unknown and with few coherent positions, is not getting totally nuked in the polls suggests there is an appetite for a Republican governor. As there should be. One-party rule is no picnic, and California’s Democrats have failed to deliver on the core issues of housing, education, and health care.

The governorship is much more of an opening for Republicans than, say, the U.S. Senate, where having a Democrat matters much more to a Democratic state. Even Democrats may want the brake of a Republican governor. But such a governor must share loyalty to California.

Cox’s support for President Trump – who constantly attacks and lies about California—demonstrates his lack of loyalty to the state. So a Republican candidate who could win would have to show real independence from the president and the national GOP. That’s hard to do in a polarized age, but it’s possible.

Identity could help. The ideal candidate would be a woman and also an immigrant – it’s not hard to imagine someone like State Senator Janet Nguyen or Congressional candidate Young Kim making a productive run someday. But the candidate would also have to be rich,, given the relative poverty of the California Republican Party.

But to be viable, the candidate would have to have a compelling message for Democratic voters, and the ability to compete for the support of Democratic aligned interest groups. How?

The idea would be to make a credible pitch along the lines of “progress is too important to be left to California’s flaky progressives.” A credible GOP candidate would make fighting climate change an imperative—while pointing out the Democrats have failed to make progress, because of poor management and command-and-control policies. The GOP candidate might run on universal health care and stronger education—but push to do them in efficient ways that didn’t, for example, preserve huge salaries for politically protected nurses, as Democratic single-payer plans insist upon. Such candidates might have to mix tax reform that raises some taxes with changes to pensions and retiree healthcare that insure new moneys go to services, and don’t get swallowed up by politically connected groups.

There is an appetite for that kind of candidate, among Democrats. The question is how such a candidate could keep Republicans in line, since she or he would face the charge that they weren’t really Republican. In a polarized time, keeping a foot in the Republican camp while reaching out to Democrats would require quite a stretch.

But it’s not impossible. There are examples of such candidates in other blue states—most notably Charlie Baker in Massachusetts. It also would require a less-than-sure-footed Democratic candidate. Gavin Newsom, unfortunately for Republicans, is a very strong Democratic candidate who can’t accurately be portrayed as an establishment tool.

But it’s quite possible to imagine a future Democratic candidate who isn’t so skilled. The question is where California Republicans might find and develop such a skilled politician.