Thurmond takes lead over Tuck in race for California schools chief

Nov 13, 2018 by

Louis Freedberg –

As California counties continue to process mail-in and provisional ballots, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, has for the first time taken a narrow lead in the race for California’s state superintendent of public instruction.

Thurmond has erased the 86,000 vote lead Marshall Tuck enjoyed last Wednesday, according to the latest figures released on Monday afternoon by the California Secretary of State.

The earlier count did not include millions of uncounted mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day, or provisional ballots issued at polling stations.

The latest figures indicate that both Tuck and Thurmond have 50 percent of the vote, but that Thurmond has 3,500 votes more than Tuck.  Thurmond currently has 3,613,883 votes, compared to Tuck’s 3,610,380.

The momentum has been clearly on Thurmond’s side since county election officials began tallying the uncounted ballots last week.

An EdSource map of election results shows that Tuck won the majority of votes in 41 out of 58 counties. But Thurmond has gotten majority support in many coastal counties, especially in high population regions of the state like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Last Friday afternoon, the Secretary of State’s issued a list of 4.6 million outstanding ballots based on numbers provided by each of California’s 58 counties.  About 1.2 million of those appear to have been  to have been counted so far. The Secretary of State is expected to provide more information on Tuesday on the number of remaining ballots to be counted.

The state superintendent’s position remains the most closely contested race for a state office in California, and one of the most expensive. All but two of the eight races for statewide positions were easily won by Democrats. The vote tally for insurance commissioner was also initially close. But over the last few days Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, has pulled ahead of Steve Poizner, running as an independent. Lara continues to widen his lead, which is now at 186,000 votes.

Thurmond and Tuck are both Democrats. Thurmond was endorsed by the California Democratic Party, as well as by many prominent Democratic lawmakers and leaders, but Tuck also garnered endorsements from many Democratic elected officials and others.

They agreed on many key education issues, including the need for more funding and the importance of closing the achievement gap in California schools.

In terms of their endorsements, what most notably set them apart was that Thurmond was endorsed and backed financially by California’s teachers unions, while Tuck was endorsed and backed by charter school advocates, including some of the nation’s wealthiest and most visible charter supporters.

Tuck was a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school network in Los Angeles.  He insisted that he backs all public schools, not just charters.  Thurmond in turn said he supports charter schools, pointing to several he voted to authorize when he was a school board member in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

But they differed in their views on the pace at which charter schools should be allowed to expand.

Thurmond said he would support a pause in further expansion of charter schools to deal with the financial impact further expansion could have on districts. Tuck opposed any such pause, but said that districts should be given temporary financial assistance to help them deal with the loss of income as a result of students enrolling in charter schools.

California already enrols a disproportionate number of the nation’s charter school students. One in five of the approximately 3.1 million students attending charter schools nationally go to charter schools in California — even though California has about 1 in 8 of the nation’s public school students.

If Thurmond ends up winning the race, it would represent another high-profile setback for prominent charter school advocates, many of them multi-billionaires who pushing for further charter expansion. Last spring, they spent over $20 million backing former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his unsuccessful race for governor against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.  Several of them contributed similar amounts that ended up going to an independent expenditure committee backing Tuck.

So far, neither Tuck nor Thurmond has claimed victory or conceded defeat.

“With millions of ballots left to come in, we are digging in and waiting for every vote to be counted,” Thurmond said earlier this week.

And when he was still leading by nearly 86,000 votes, Tuck said, “I think this is a lead that will hold but I’m not sure of it. 86,000 votes is meaningful but not a ton.”

What is also unknown is how long it will take to count all the ballots. “There are a massive number of ballots, and we have 58 very different counties, each with its own way of counting and its own level of resources,” Sam Mahood, a spokesman for California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Counting that many ballots takes time, and there aren’t many ways to shorten the process.”

Three quarters of the uncounted ballots are mail-in ballots that arrived after last Tuesday’s election date. About 1 in 5 are those cast by people who showed up at the polls to vote, but for a variety of reasons were issued provisional ballots. A much smaller number are same-day registration ballots.

Source: Thurmond takes lead over Tuck in race for California schools chief | EdSource

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