Though few lieutenant governors ever go on to become governor, the contenders say it is a position that can shape the future of California.
Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Democratic San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are both 43 years old. But they do not seem to have much else in common.
"Styles of leadership are the biggest difference," Maldonado said. "My style is to bring everyone to the table and figuring out the best way to move California forward. Gavin Newsom's style is 'whether you like it or not, it's gonna happen.'"
"You may not agree with me, but you'll know where I stand," Newsom said. "I'm not going to put my finger in the wind and change my position every six months like other politicians do. I think you've seen that with my opponent."
Maldonado is a former state lawmaker from the central coast. He was appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in April after the longest confirmation process in California history.
Many view the post as largely ceremonial, but the current officeholder says he has real authority.
"You're the president of the senate; you're also acting governor when the governor leaves the state, that's very, very important," Maldonado said.
Maldonado recently used that power to declare a state of emergency in the San Bruno fire.
Newsom also believes the job is more than just a caretaker for someone a heartbeat away from the governor.
"You need somebody who is actually prepared, someone who is thoughtful and reflective and organized," he said.
The second in command sits on the governing board of the California public university systems, the Ocean Protection Council, lands commission and the Commission for Economic Development.
"I'm going to fight for lower tuitions, I'm going to fight to lead the nation in terms of environmental stewardship, I'm going to get serious about blowing up the economic development strategies of this state," Newsom said.
"Obviously the most important thing is working with the administration to make sure we find ways to create more jobs," Maldonado said.
There is sharp disagreement about the impact AB32, the state's landmark global warming law could have on jobs.
Newsom is an enthusiastic supporter.
"I think the greatest opportunity, singular opportunity the state has is in the green tech sector," he said.
Maldonado voted against AB32. He says the regulations were not spelled out and the outcome is unclear.
"If they hurt the economy and they keep us from creating jobs in this great state, then you put a moratorium on it," Maldonado said.
Still he, like Newsom, opposes the November ballot measure Prop 23, which would suspend the law.
As the campaign winds down the rivals are on the attack.
"He was the architect of the biggest tax increase in California history and the biggest education cuts," Newsom said.
"How would he have solved a $62 billion deficit? I want to know," Maldonado said.
Maldonado says he loves San Francisco, but thinks his views are more in line with voters statewide.
"I don't see anybody...from California saying, 'You know what? I want to run my city like San Francisco, like Mayor Newsom's policies,'" Maldonado said.
"San Francisco County, for all its eccentricities and for all that people love to, you know, is one of the greatest economic engines in the world," Newsom said.
Both candidates do agree on at least one thing. Both say they can work with the new governor whether it is someone from their own party or not.