Schools Chief Race Not Over

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Last week's California primary set up a potentially dramatic face-off in November for the state's top education job.

Delaine Eastin

The incumbent superintendent of public instruction, Delaine Eastin, will be challenged by Gloria Matta Tuchman, a leader of the statewide campaign against bilingual education, in a runoff election.

Gloria Matta Tuchman

The matchup was ordained by a nonpartisan primary election in which Ms. Eastin captured 2 million votes, or 43 percent of the total, well short of the majority she needed to avoid a runoff.

Ms. Tuchman, a Santa Ana 1st grade teacher, finished second with 1.2 million votes, or 26 percent. She co-directed the successful Proposition 227 ballot measure, which aims to virtually end bilingual education in the state.

Ms. Eastin, who opposed the measure, was pleased to win such a high share of the votes in the five-candidate field, her campaign manager, Mike Marshall, said. But she is taking her challenger seriously, he added.

"If the right wing decides they want to take out Delaine, they can make it very difficult for her," Mr. Marshall said. "They can easily put $2 million into Tuchman's campaign.'

Ms. Tuchman's camp could not be reached to comment last week. But Tony Bell, a spokesman for the Republican Party of California, predicted a Tuchman victory in the fall.

"She's an educator and believes strongly that California's education system can be stronger if the leadership is right," he said. ("English Spoken Here," Jan. 14, 1998.)

'The Biggest Surprise'

California's chief serves as the state's lead administrator for K-12 issues and oversees policy for 7,800 schools.

Aside from the two candidates' differences over bilingual education, Ms. Eastin, a former state legislator, is a Democrat who opposes publicly funded school vouchers. Ms. Tuchman is a Republican who endorses granting vouchers to children in low-performing schools to allow them to move to a private or other public school.

And while Ms. Eastin is downplaying the primary result, some observers said it was startling.

"That's the biggest surprise of the election to me," said Jerry Hayward, the co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education, a university-based research consortium in Sacramento. "With all of [Ms. Eastin's] travels across the state, I'm surprised she didn't do better."

Vol. 17, Issue 39, Page 20

Published in Print: June 10, 1998, as Schools Chief Race Not Over
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