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Thurmond, Tuck Compete for Voters’ Attention During Last Week of Campaign for State Superintendent

June 1, 2018

Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck - the two major candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction - made a last minute sprint for votes during the past week, with election day looming on June 5.

Traditionally, California voters only “tune in” to the race for State Superintendent during the last ten days or so of the campaign. And this year appears to have followed that longstanding trend. In an early April poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, Tuck and Thurmond each received 13 percent support, with a whopping 74 percent of voters still making up their mind.

One measure of how many voters were only “tuning in” to the race in late May: on May 22 (barely two weeks before election day), the San Diego Union-Tribune ran profiles of both Thurmond and Tuck under the headline “Get to Know Superintendent of Schools Candidates Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck.” (See link below.)

Typically, candidates for State Superintendent spend a significant portion of their campaign funds on last minute mailers and broadcast media, seeking to deliver their message during the closing days of the campaign.

This year, Tuck raised a bit over $6 million for his campaign, including contributions from charter school advocates, multimillionaire “school reform” proponents like Eli Broad, etc. (Tuck has worked as a charter school executive in the Los Angeles area).

Thurmond has raised a bit over $3 million, including support from the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and various other union groups.

Several political observers have noted that while this year’s race for California’s Governor has, as usual, produced the most campaign spending, this year’s race for State Superintendent has produced the second largest total of campaign dollars spent on a statewide race. This year’s race for State Superintendent is widely seen as a conflict between teachers unions and establishment educators (backing Thurmond) and “education reform” and charter school groups (backing Tuck). (Both Thurmond and Tuck are registered Democrats.)

This year, as in 2014, Tuck rounded up the majority of the major newspaper endorsements, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Tuck also picked up an endorsement from the Association of California School Administrators.

Tony Thurmond, an Assemblymember representing Richmond and other communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee, in addition to the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers. (This year’s endorsement of Thurmond by the LA Times and Sacramento Bee was interesting, since back in 2014, the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee both endorsed Tuck, when Tuck was challenging incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.)

To win, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction must receive at least 50 percent of the vote. There are four candidates on the June 5, 2018 ballot… and even though candidates Lily Ploski and Steven Ireland have run low-budget, low-key campaigns, it is possible that the race could go to a November runoff if Ploski and Ireland attract a small percentage of the votes, and the race between Thurmond and Tuck proves to be a tight contest. (In 2014, the June election for State Superintendent was a three-way race between Torlakson, Tuck and Lydia Gutierrez; followed by a November runoff between Torlakson and Tuck, with Torlakson prevailing by a margin of 52.7 percent).

Source: EdBrief staff, San Diego Union-Tribune, PPIC

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