The two most recent leaders of California’s largest city have split over the contentious race for state superintendent of public instruction.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed schools chief Tom Torlakson’s re-election campaign Wednesday, praising Torlakson for working to improve school safety.
“Tom Torlakson is dedicated to the safety of our children and our schools,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I support Torlakson because of the work he is doing to combat bullying, expand after-school programs, and keep gangs, drugs and guns out of our schools.”
Torlakson has lined up endorsements from much of the state’s Democratic leadership, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, as well as California’s teachers unions, but he is locked in a tight battle with challenger Marshall Tuck. A Field Poll released on Tuesday showed Torlakson trailing Tuck by three percentage points among likely voters, with more than 40 percent still undecided.
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Garcetti’s predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a former colleague of Torlakson’s in the Legislature, endorsed Tuck in April. Tuck, who is also a Democrat, served under Villaraigosa for six years leading a non-profit organization that assumed control of 17 low-performing Los Angeles schools.
“A politician endorsing another politician is hardly news,” Tuck spokesman Cynara Lilly said of the Garcetti endorsement. “Tom Torlakson is behind in the polls because of his decision to put Sacramento politicians ahead of kids and this is more of the same.”
She also noted that Garcetti initially praised the June court ruling declaring California’s teacher tenure system unconstitutional, which Tuck supports and Torlakson opposes, before reversing course.