The presidential election is 21 months away and no one has officially announced their candidacy. Meanwhile, an election 45 months away in California already has its first candidate.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement Wednesday that he has "never been a fan of pretense or procrastination" -- that's putting it lightly -- and was creating a committee to run for California governor in 2018. He said the "reality" of running for governor in such a large state with 38 million people meant he had to "start raising resources now."
Running for statewide office in California can indeed be very expensive; the state has 12 media markets, and its last open gubernatorial race, in 2010, cost more than $213 million.
But no one in 2010, including Newsom who ran briefly before opting instead to run for lieutenant governor, announced their candidacy as early as he just did Wednesday. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) announced 21 months before, Newsom launched an exploratory commitee 28 months before (that was early back then), and the eventual winner, Jerry Brown (D), announced his committee 13 months before (though it was clear he was running for months beforehand). The last open, non-recall gubernatorial election before that was in 1998, and Gray Davis (D) announced his candidacy no earlier than 21 months before.
California Democrats have experienced a bottleneck, as up-and-coming Democrats have had to patiently wait for their governor and U.S. senators to retire or be termed out of office to run for their seats. There was once speculation that Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) would face off against each other for the governor's mansion in 2018, but when Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) announced last month she would not seek reelection in 2016, Harris said she would run to replace her instead.
So far, Harris has managed to box out potential Democratic opponents. She announced her run almost immediately — less than a week after Boxer said she would be stepping down — and began raising money. She's picked up endorsements from members of Congress including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Newsom stating his own intentions four years early seems like a similar move, marking the seat for himself before others begin planning to do so in earnest. He also has the advantage of having a light workload. Newsom suggested in his statement that he doesn't expect the 2018 race to distract him from his duties as lieutenant governor, which before taking office he called "a largely ceremonial post ... with no real authority and no real portfolio."
It's something other possible opponents with more demanding day jobs, like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), state Treasurer John Chiang (D) and several members of the state's U.S. House delegation, won't have. Nobody is going to be able to match Newsom's head start.