Nico Savidge/EdSource
Tony Thurmond outside the Tenderloin Community School in San Francisco on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.
The article was updated with Thurmond's declaration of victory on Saturday Nov. 17 at 3 p.m.

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond has won the race for California state superintendent of public instruction, defeating Marshall Tuck in the nonpartisan contest.

Two million ballots have yet to be counted but in a tweet he issued this morning, Thurmond said Tuck had conceded the race in a “gracious call to congratulate me and wish me well.”

The most recent results showed Thurmond 152,000 votes ahead and leading Tuck 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent with 9 million votes tabulated.

“I intend to be a champion of public schools and a Superintendent for all California students,” said Thurmond said in a statement. “I ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction to deliver to all Californians the promise that public education delivered to me – that all students, no matter their background and no matter their challenges, can succeed with a great public education.”

The result will be not be official until all the votes are counted, and will be certified by the Secretary of State in early December.

In a lengthy statement issued to his supporters, Tuck said, “Given it has become clear that we are not going to win this campaign, I felt it was in the best interest of California’s children for me to concede now so that Assemblymember Thurmond has as much time as possible to plan to take over as State Superintendent.”

Thurmond is a two-term assemblyman representing parts of Oakland and other East Bay communities. A social worker by training, he ran several nonprofits serving children before turning to political office. He served both on the board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District and on the Richmond City Council.

Tuck  was formerly head of a charter school network and also directed a partnership of  public schools within Los Angeles Unified.

After the initial post-election count, Tuck was ahead by 86,000 votes. But mail-in and provisional ballots counted since then proved to be a gold mine for Thurmond. Thurmond has collected 238,000 more votes than Tuck out of the approximately 3 million ballots counted since Election Day.

According to EdSource estimates, a record-breaking nearly $60 million was spent on the race by the competing sides through direct contributions and through independent expenditure committees.

Even though both Thurmond and Tuck are Democrats, Thurmond benefited from getting the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party, as well as some of the party’s most prominent elected officials, such as Sen. Kamala Harris and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

He was also backed by the California Teachers Association and other labor unions representing education workers and university faculty. At the same time, he had to fend off a well-financed, and often negative, campaign mounted by charter school advocates who poured money into an independent expenditure committee set up to defeat his candidacy.

CTA president Eric Heins said electing Gavin Newsom governor and Thurmond state superintendent were his union’s top priority. “It’s clear that educators played a pivotal role in this election,” he said, pointing to phone banking, door to door canvassing and other activities by union members on behalf of Thurmond.

One indication of the potency of labor backing in this race is that every state superintendent of public instruction over the past 24 years — Delaine Eastin, Jack O’Connell and current incumbent Tom Torlakson — was endorsed by teachers unions. Like Thurmond, Eastin, O’Connell and Torlakson all served in the Legislature before they ran for state superintendent of public instruction.

This was the second time that Tuck had made a run for the office, both times mounting a vigorous campaign, and both times falling short.  “I remind myself that winning the election isn’t the end goal,” he said in the statement he issued today.  “The end goal is that all children in this state and country, regardless of background, get access to quality public schools.”

Thurmond’s victory also means that for only the second time an African American will occupy the post.  The last was the near-legendary Wilson Riles, who was defeated by Bill Honig in 1982 after serving three terms.

In fact, Riles and Thurmond will be the only people of color to occupy the post, in a state where children of color comprise over three quarters of California’s 6 million student body.

For updated results on the race, go to EdSource’s vote tracker here

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  1. Jerry sanchez 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Why is it that the state superintendent of schools does not need a administrative credential whereas you need one to be a principal or county superintendent. This is wrong and our kids lose.

  2. Joe 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I would liked to have seen Marshall Tuck win. My son had a research project on this election so we investigated both candidates to the point of exhaustion. What we found was that the Green Dot Schools out-performed district schools and also drastic improvements in the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools as documented by the California Department of Education. These were nonprofit public schools and the private schools as hyped/misled by the Thurmond commercials. … Read More

    I would liked to have seen Marshall Tuck win. My son had a research project on this election so we investigated both candidates to the point of exhaustion. What we found was that the Green Dot Schools out-performed district schools and also drastic improvements in the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools as documented by the California Department of Education.

    These were nonprofit public schools and the private schools as hyped/misled by the Thurmond commercials. Also the billionaires in the Tuck ads are donations from Bill Gates and the Walton Family (Sams Club/Walmart) who have zero stake other then straight-out philanthropy for the children. I gotta figure they are pretty smart people as well. I found that the Thurmond campaign was more inclined to give teachers peace of mind, hence the CTA approval, rather than being about the children’s education. Feel free to fact-check on this one before any reply.

  3. Patti Rommel 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The article noted that Thurmond was only the second person of color to hold this position, but the education field is represented by 75% women, less than 15% hold top leadership positions in school districts. Only one woman has ever held this position (Delaine Eastin) in California. The state is moving in a positive direction for inclusiveness, but still has great disparity with regards to gender.

  4. Lori Franklin 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    The results speak volume! Voters do not want big corps to lay their hands on public education!

  5. Leo Harris 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I voted for Thurmond because of the very negative campaign waged by Tuck. It was unnecessary and over the top for a Public School official.

  6. Joshua Brown 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I am not a Democrat, I dislike the Democratic party, but Thurmond earned my vote because he's actually gotten a lot of things passed that affect my life positively, such as expanding the school lunch program and securing resources for county welfare services. Tuck on the other hand wants to turn all public schools into charter schools. He ran for the same office as a Republican 4 yrs ago only to discover it made him … Read More

    I am not a Democrat, I dislike the Democratic party, but Thurmond earned my vote because he’s actually gotten a lot of things passed that affect my life positively, such as expanding the school lunch program and securing resources for county welfare services.

    Tuck on the other hand wants to turn all public schools into charter schools. He ran for the same office as a Republican 4 yrs ago only to discover it made him unelectable in California.

    All of the candidates I voted for in June lost so in November, I only voted in my local Congressional race, this one, and the law propositions. The congressional candidate I voted for lost, the law proposition votes didn’t go my way (other than Prop 5), but I’m glad that I at least got one win here.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Thanks for your comment, Joshua. To be accurate, Marshall Tuck ran for the same position, state superintendent of public instruction, four years ago. He was a Democrat then and has remained a Democrat. The office itself is non-partisan.

  7. mr isaac 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Tuck ran a dirty, "Willey Horton" style campaign that was racist to the core. Not one newspaper, including EdSource, called Tuck out for the vicious, misleading, "sexual harassment" ads that Tuck ran. It was a Trumpesque attempt to convince voters that the black male candidate was involved in a sex scandal. Outrageous. Shame on you for your silence EdSouce, and shame on you for printing a 'poll' that had Tony down … Read More

    Tuck ran a dirty, “Willey Horton” style campaign that was racist to the core. Not one newspaper, including EdSource, called Tuck out for the vicious, misleading, “sexual harassment” ads that Tuck ran. It was a Trumpesque attempt to convince voters that the black male candidate was involved in a sex scandal. Outrageous. Shame on you for your silence EdSouce, and shame on you for printing a ‘poll’ that had Tony down by 12 points one week out. Let’s see if those chickens will come home to roost. Hooray for California! Hooray for public education! Hooray for Tony!

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Mr. Isaac, A couple of points in response: 1. In our ongoing coverage, EdSource repeatedly reminded readers of the important distinction between between ads paid for and approved by the candidates' campaigns and those by independent expenditure committees with no connection to the candidates. The ads I believe you are referring to were by EdVoice (no relationship to EdSource). 2. Although supporters of Marshall Tuck or Tony Thurmond may not want to acknowledge it, independent expenditure campaigns supporting … Read More

      Mr. Isaac,
      A couple of points in response:
      1. In our ongoing coverage, EdSource repeatedly reminded readers of the important distinction between between ads paid for and approved by the candidates’ campaigns and those by independent expenditure committees with no connection to the candidates. The ads I believe you are referring to were by EdVoice (no relationship to EdSource).
      2. Although supporters of Marshall Tuck or Tony Thurmond may not want to acknowledge it, independent expenditure campaigns supporting both candidates extensively ran negative ads. EdSource reporter Nico Savidge detailed the inaccuracies and misrepresentations, which Politifact subsequently confirmed and referred to in its own analysis. EdSource news articles referred to the attack ads on both sides.
      3. There were very few polls on the state superintendent race. EdSource covered the one online survey by Berkeley IGS Poll, produced by the the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, whose polls we often cite. The article mentioned another poll that showed a closer race. The huge number of late mail-in and provisional votes indicates there were lots of late deciders and younger, new voters, whose views may not have been captured by the poll. Who the voters were and how they made up their minds will make for fascinating analyses in coming months.

  8. Robert D. Skeels, JD 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I’m so glad that we Californians rejected Tuck’s ethnocentrism and “english only” policies. [1] Our state’s diverse students deserved, and got much better than those politics of exclusion and marginalizing. This has been an excellent weekend so far with Tony Thurmond’s victory, and my passing the California Bar Exam on my first attempt. [2] Two more things the lucrative charter school industry needs to worry about.

    [1] https://www.laprogressive.com/marshall-tuck-campaign/
    [2] https://twitter.com/rdsathene/status/1063706441985323008

  9. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    With Marshall Tuck ceding the Superintendent of Public Instruction election to California Teachers Union-backed Tony Thurmond, the task of improving California’s public schools falls to new Governor Gavin Newsom. This is Gavin’s biggest challenge among many, but surely it is the most important for the future of our state. I am hoping he will match his campaign words with deeds.

  10. Maria Elena Romero 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    He is also the first and only Latino that has held this position. His mother is from Panama.

  11. John Awunganyi 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    What the author of this article forgot to mention is that Ed Source vehemently supported Mr. Tuck and pushed his false narrative that he will work for all students. He is nothing but a front and a tool for billionaires bent on destroying public education and putting money in their pockets. Sadly for them and good for our kids the public and voters saw through their deceitful agenda. Try again in 2022.

    Replies

    • Louis Freedberg 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Mr. Awunganyi is incorrect. EdVoice, not EdSource, supported Marshall Tuck, establishing an independent expenditure committee that spent millions of dollars, mostly from charter school backers, to back his candidacy. EdSource is an independent, nonpartisan reporting organization, and we do not take take positions on any electoral races. Sorry about the confusion between the names EdVoice and EdSource. We were founded in 1977, over three decades before EdVoice appeared on the scene.

  12. Dick Jung 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Thanks for your “on-top-of-it” coverage of the see-saw election results of this race!

  13. John H. Lorona 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The uncounted ballots have been a gold mine for Thurmond. Since the initial post-election vote count, when Tuck was ahead by 86,000, Thurmond has collected 238,000 more votes than Tuck out of the approximately 3 million ballots counted.
    I am really happy for Tony Thurmond.