Capitol Alert

Challenger Tuck outraises incumbent Torlakson in state schools chief race

Challenger Marshall Tuck has outraised incumbent Tom Torlakson heading into the final stretch of the ideologically charged race for state superintendent of public instruction, though the tight battle could be decided by a late splurge of outside money.

Tuck reported monetary contributions of $761,390 and a cash balance of $699,037 in his latest campaign filing, covering the period of July 1 to September 30, compared to Torlakson’s $617,183 raised and $608,609 on hand. Tuck has raised large amounts from Silicon Valley and other business executives, while Torlakson is heavily supported by organized labor.

Entering the race as an underdog, Tuck, a former schools executive in Los Angeles, has galvanized support over a June court ruling declaring California’s teacher tenure and dismissal rules unconstitutional. In a Field Poll released last month, he held a slim lead over Torlakson, with more than 40 percent of voters still undecided.

Campaigns for the nonpartisan state superintendent position, California’s top education official, are normally a sleepy affair, but the tenure ruling has juiced interest. The race was among the most expensive of the primary cycle, and big political spenders are lining up behind both candidates once again.

The California Teachers Association, which spent millions in support of Torlakson earlier this year, has amassed more than $530,000 in its pro-Torlakson independent expenditure committee. The teachers union also recently spent almost $2 million on “issue ads” touting Torlakson’s accomplishments in his first term and encouraging voters to “tell Tom Torlakson to keep fighting for a plan that invests in our public schools.”

Los Angeles businessmen Bill Bloomfield and Eli Broad, a major financier of efforts to overhaul public education, recently formed a pro-Tuck committee that currently holds more than $540,000. Bloomfield and his associates spent more than $1.7 million on behalf of Tuck in the primary.