Tom Torlakson nearly won another term as superintendent of public instruction outright Tuesday but will instead face second-place finisher Marshall Tuck in November. That’s not particularly good news for Torlakson or the California Teachers Association, Torklakson’s chief financial backer. The union faces the prospect of spending millions of dollars more of teachers’ dues to counter independent expenditures by self-styled education reformers who favor charter schools and an end to teacher tenure.
“CTA was hoping Torlakson could have ended it last night,” said John Pitney, political observer and government professor at Claremont McKenna College.
Torlakson got 46.9 percent of the vote, just shy of the majority vote that would have avoided a top-two candidate runoff in the non-partisan superintendent’s race. Tuck, a former CEO of a Los Angeles charter school organization and head of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a group of 17 low-performing schools, took second with 28.6 percent. The third candidate, Lydia Gutierrez, a Long Beach Unified veteran teacher who campaigned against the Common Core standards, got 24.4 percent.
Gutierrez is a socially conservative Republican, and Tuck, though a Democrat, also pitched to Republicans in the primary (see mailers that Pitney posted on his website), and will continue to do so, Pitney predicted. Together their two vote totals top Torlakson’s.
“It shows Tuck’s potential base of support, but that said, union support is important, and Torlakson is the favorite,” Pitney said. “If conservatives had a dream candidate, it would not be Marshall Tuck. But if you are to the right of center, Tuck is preferable.”
Torlakson, a former legislator and high school teacher, and Tuck each raised about $1 million. The CTA spent more than $4 million independently of Torlakson’s campaign on anti-Tuck and pro-Torlakson radio ads and mailers. Tuck’s backers included William Bloomfield, a real estate developer from Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles philanthropist and charter school promoter Eli Broad. They spent more than $1.5 million combined. If they up the ante, it’ll be a big drain on CTA.
For an Edsource profile of Torlakson and Tuck, go here.