Incumbent California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson is headed for a runoff with challenger Marshall Tuck. Torlakson won 46.9% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary election, well shy of the 50%+1 he would need for absolute victory.
The surprise in the election was Lydia Gutiérrez, a teacher in the Long Beach schools, who took 24% of the vote statewide compared with Tuck’s 28.6%. Gutiérrez ran a low budget campaign that strongly opposed the state’s participation in the Common Core of State Standards and which associated itself with Tea Party support organizations.
Tuck ran a well-organized and financed campaign, one that garnered support from venture philanthropists and corporate reformers. He was endorsed by most of the state’s newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle.
Torlakson’s found the heaviest support in the San Francisco Bay counties, where he won 61% of the vote, and he won a plurality of the vote in all but two counties. However, his margin was lower in populous Los Angeles County, where Tuck is better known and where his supporters mailed flyers and Democratic ballot preference slates listing Tuck as the choice candidate. Both Torlakson and Tuck identified themselves as Democrats in the non-partisan election, however, Torlakson was endorsed by the Democratic Party and most of the state’s office holders. He was strongly supported by the state’s two teacher unions.
One indicator of the interest in this contest is the relatively high proportion of voters who cast their ballots in the state superintendent’s race. The superintendent choice appears in the middle of the ballot, below all other statewide offices. Usually there is sustantial falloff from the top of the ballot, where the governor’s primary draws the most attention. In this election the dropoff was only 12%. In the parallel 2010 election, the dropoff was 36%.
Overall, however, this was a very low turnout election. In 2010 nearly 5.5-million people voted. This year the total was 3.15-million. Only the faithful went to the polls, and they tended to make their way through the whole ballot.
(In the map above, Torlakson received the most votes in the orange colored counties, Tuck in the green, and Gutiérrez in the blue.)
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