Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) has not revealed whether he will seek re-election, the California Republican Party (search) on Sunday changed a party rule and endorsed him 16 months before the 2006 gubernatorial primary.

Delegates at the state GOP convention decided to make an exception to the party's policy of not endorsing candidates before the primary elections so Republicans can pay some early expenses — such as bulk mailing and voter registration (search) — should Schwarzenegger decide to run again.

"The Democratic Party is already raising money to field candidates for this office," said Karen Hanretty, a party spokeswoman. "To remain competitive, the party had to make this necessary, one-time rule change."

A voice vote on the endorsement was "overwhelmingly supportive of the governor," Hanretty said.

The proposal caused longtime GOP activist Dora Kingsley to resign her seat on the party rules committee on Friday. Kingsley, who did not attend Sunday's convention, said she thought making an exception for Schwarzenegger could result in the loss of voter confidence by discouraging challengers.