Many political scientists and historians attribute the candidate-centered campaign, a defining characteristic of the modern American political system, to the appearance of the direct primary during the Progressive Era. During the nineteenth century, when the major parties selected their nominees in conventions, office seekers maintained a lower profile, and partisan-minded voters were not overly influenced by the personal characteristics of the candidates. Using California as a case study, this essay traces the emergence of a new breed of aggressive office seekers at the turn of the twentieth century. It looks specifically at the canvassing activities of would-be gubernatorial nominees in the weeks leading up to the state convention. In its heyday, the convention system marginalized elective office seekers. The multilayered convention system was too decentralized and complex to be manipulated in the interests any one candidate. Candidates began to exert more influence over the nomination process in the waning years of the nominating convention. The introduction of state regulation of party functions took control of the process out of the hands of local partisan clubs and cliques. Delegates began to be selected on the basis of their affiliation with a gubernatorial candidate. Conventions lost much of their deliberative character, and voting blocs emerged tied to particular candidates through the unit rule. By the time the direct primary appeared on the scene in 1909, the aggressive office seeker was already a fixture on the political landscape. In short, scholars have exaggerated the impact of the shift from indirect to direct nominations and have overlooked the implications of the regulation of political parties when the convention system was still in place. The direct primary was part of a long tradition of reform designed to serve the interests of the parties' office-seeking or office-holding contingent at the expense of the party organization.