After Avalanche of Mail-In and Provisional Ballots Swings Close Race, State Assemblyman Tony Thurmond to Become California’s Next State Superintendent
Tony Thurmond graciously accepted the concession call from Marshall Tuck, marking his victory as California’s state superintendent of public instruction eleven days after the election. A spokesperson for Tuck’s campaign confirmed that Tuck conceded in a phone call to Thurmond on Saturday morning. Thurmond expressed his gratitude to the voters of California in a tweet and stated his commitment to being a champion of public schools and serving all students in the state.
Thurmond, aged 50, is currently a state assemblyman and has a background as a social worker and school board member in the San Francisco Bay area. He had the support of the influential teachers union and other labor groups throughout California, which has been a common factor in the past 24 years for state superintendents.
Initially, Tuck, aged 45, had an 86,000-vote lead after Election Day, but as provisional and mail-in ballots were counted, Thurmond surpassed Tuck’s margin by nearly three times. The official results will only be determined once all votes are counted and certified in December, with approximately 2 million votes remaining.
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association played a pivotal role in the election, with their support and efforts for candidates like Thurmond who advocate for quality public schools. The role of state superintendent lacks partisan affiliation and significant statutory power, but the record-breaking $60 million spent on the race demonstrated its importance as a platform. A victory for Tuck would have provided a counterbalance to education reformers against Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, his appointed state board of education, and the Democratic majority in the state legislature, all of whom received support from teachers unions.
The key focus of the race revolved around the debate over school choice in California. Thurmond and Tuck, both Democrats, opposed for-profit charters and called for increased transparency measures. However, Thurmond suggested a "pause" on new charter schools until additional revenues can be allocated to offset the financial loss experienced by district schools when students transfer to charters. Tuck argued against school districts being able to reject new charter petitions due to potential financial hardship.
Additionally, both candidates agreed on the inclusion of more underachieving subgroups, such as African Americans, in the state’s Local Control Funding Formula. They also supported free preschool for all children and emphasized the need for additional mental health support for students.
Tuck, in contrast to Thurmond, aimed to change how school districts could use the extra funding, particularly opposing across-the-board raises for teachers. Thurmond did not comment on whether he would continue this practice. Bill Lucia, president and CEO of EdVoice, an education advocacy organization that supported Tuck’s campaign, expressed the hope that Thurmond would follow through on his promises and make tough decisions to improve California’s public schools, despite potential pushback from special interest groups.
Tuck served as the president of Green Dot Public Schools, a nonprofit organization that manages charter schools in Los Angeles since its establishment in 1999. Additionally, he was the founding CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a network formed ten years ago by former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa after his unsuccessful attempt to take control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In a message to his supporters on Saturday, Tuck expressed his congratulations to Assemblymember Thurmond for his victory in the election. He offered his assistance in ensuring Thurmond’s success and wished him well in his new role. Recognizing that victory was not within his reach, Tuck believed it was in the best interest of California’s children to concede at this point, allowing Thurmond ample time to prepare for his role as State Superintendent. It is important to note that while the votes are still being counted, conceding allows the candidates to move forward.
Tuck acknowledged the difficulty of embracing change and the disheartening aspect of politics, especially in the face of defeat. However, he emphasized that winning the election should not be the ultimate goal, but rather ensuring that all children in the state and country, regardless of their backgrounds, have access to high-quality public schools. Tuck stressed the importance of persevering and quickly moving past this loss, as achieving the goal of providing a quality education to all children will require dedicated effort.