Tuck outraising incumbent, but union looms large

Tuck outraising incumbent, but union looms large

marshalltuck05222014Education reformer Marshall Tuck has accomplished a rare feat for a political challenger: He’s raised more money than the incumbent.

According to the most recent campaign finance disclosure reports released Monday, Tuck has raised nearly $1.6 million since he launched his campaign to fix California’s failing schools. That’s roughly $200,000 more than incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Both are Democrats.

In addition to raising more money, Tuck has more cash on hand heading into the final month of the campaign. Tuck’s $699,037 in available funds puts him with a nearly six-figure advantage over Torlakson, who reported $608,609 in cash on hand, as of Sept. 30.

Tuck’s strong fundraising shows donors are responding to his reform message. He’s the only statewide challenger to outraise an incumbent this year. In some cases, challengers are at a significant disadvantage.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Republican Ronald Gold, who is challenging Attorney General Kamala Harris, had $17,601 in available funds, with $80,000 in outstanding debts. Meanwhile, Harris reported $3.6 million in cash on hand for the most recent period.

Teachers union’s $1.9 million ‘issue’ campaign just beginning

But Tuck’s financial advantage is largely illusory. That’s because the California Teachers Association, the most powerful special interest group in Sacramento, has declared war on Tuck. The teachers union is the biggest player in the superintendent’s race, even dwarfing the candidates.

CTA Issue AdvocacyOn Oct. 1, the state’s richest union launched its latest “issue” advocacy praising their loyal ally Torlakson. According to state campaign finance disclosure reports, the CTA reported spending $1.94 million in issue ads benefiting Torlakson. To put that number in perspective, it’s more than either of the candidates has raised for his entire campaign.

And the union is likely just getting started with its outside campaign spending. According to the Los Angeles Times, the CTA spent $2.5 million in independent expenditures during the June primary on Torlakson’s behalf. Despite the union spending, Torlakson received the fewest votes of any statewide incumbent, an anemic 46.5 percent of the vote.

Vergara decision alters the race

Since the primary, things have only gotten worse for Torlakson as more voters are becoming aware of a landmark court case, Vergara v. California, which has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the superintendent’s race.

In June, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu found California’s teacher tenure and dismissal process violates students’ rights by leaving low-income and minority students with the worst teachers. Immediately, the teachers union adopted a “you’re either with us or against us” policy, attacking anyone in their way, even the judge.

“The Vergara ruling makes clear that Judge Treu failed to engage the evidence presented in court by education experts and school superintendents who testified that teacher rights are not impediments to well-run schools and districts,” California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt said in a press release condemning the ruling. “Instead he issued a blanket decision to scuttle these important statutes, absent the kind of compelling evidence that should be the standard for changing state law.” The CFT is the state’s second teachers union.

In August, Torlakson, a staunch union defender, announced he would appeal the decision. “The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support,” he said in a statement. “Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.”

In contrast, Tuck has praised the ruling and vows to drop the state’s appeal if elected.

“When I win … I’m immediately submitting to the appellate court our request to no longer be a defendant and will side with the plaintiffs in the case,” Tuck told the UT San Diego.

Tuck’s reform message resonating with all Californians

The teachers unions’ campaign onslaught could backfire. But, much like Republican Meg Whitman proved in 2010 with her run for governor, money sometimes can backfire. Every major newspaper in the state has endorsed Tuck — all citing Torlakson’s cozy relationship with the union as part of their reason.

“As for Torlakson, he seems too busy defending public schools to think about fixing them,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders. “Torlakson actually has attacked Tuck for working on Wall Street during his first two years out of college. That’s the sort of nasty salvo that made it easy for every major newspaper in California, including The Chronicle, to endorse Tuck.”

On Monday, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune became the latest newspaper to back Tuck.

“Torlakson has joined in a legal appeal of the Vergara ruling, and mouths the union line that people want to streamline the hiring and firing rules are ‘blaming teachers,'” the paper wrote. “Tuck applauds the Vergara decision and has called on the state Board of Education not to wait through an appeal before developing alternative rules, including longer evaluation periods before tenure is granted.”


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  1. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 7 October, 2014, 12:38

    Money wins 95% of elections in the United States. That’s why I told you before that we really don’t live in a democracy. We live in a kleptocracy. Whoever has the most money and tells the best lies wins. Meg Whitman is a poor example that money doesn’t always win elections. Meg’s an idiot. When she ran for gov she committed one big blunder after another. The final proverbial nail in her coffin was when her former illegal maid went public. lol. What a moron for not paying the maid off before entering the race. She spent dozens of millions on her campaign and then let an illegal peasant destroy it all! lol. As a matter of fact, the illegal apparently went after her for backwages and won! LOL! Can you imagine someone as absentminded as that running billion dollar corporations? lol. I wouldn’t trust her to manage my beer money.
    I’m not convinced how much of a reformer that Tuck would be. Sure, he talks a strong game. They all do. But in politics talk comes cheap. Real cheap. If Tuck happens to slip through the cracks I bet the unions buy him off lock, stock and barrel before the end of his 1st year in office.
    Generally, a candidate doesn’t make it on the ballot as a frontrunner unless he’s been vetted to protect the status quo. If you think our voting system is any better than the purple thumb system they have in Iraq – you need to do some research.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 7 October, 2014, 14:50

    These Gregorian Chants are depressing.

    It is sunny and kids laughing on way home from school……flowers and trees look great …..the smell of Tacos and beer at the local joint awesome!

    Reply this comment
  3. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 8 October, 2014, 06:46

    1976. I arrive from Ohio. First thing I see in class is a kid with his leg up on the desk. I was 4 months ahead of the rest of the bozos in that classroom coming from Ohio.

    No discipline, lack of parenting due to both parents having to work is why we are the worst at K-12 in the world.

    Nothing has changed and become far worse in my view. Send your kids to private schools and let them enjoy learning the right way, where the kids don’t have the crap arriving from third world countries enmasse.


    Reply this comment
  4. Hugh Tuck
    Hugh Tuck 8 October, 2014, 06:53

    Yeah, I’m his uncle, but please listen to me. I wish you could meet Marshall in person. Short TV ads do not convey his passion for improving California schools. My fear is, if he gets elected, he will not be able to overcome the inertia of the bureaucracy of Sacramento, let alone the legal challenges the CTA is sure to instigate. I don’t think Marshall tricked every major, and most of the minor, newspapers in the state into endorsing him. He is a ball of fire who really wants to change the school system.

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 9 October, 2014, 11:58

      I wish Marshall all the luck in the world, Hugh. I would certainly like to see him oust Torlac. And, as a young guy with high ideals and a fire in his belly, I have no doubt he wants to make a difference. But I’ve watched politics for years, Hugh Most of the electeds make their grand entries with a strong moral passion and high ideals. Then 5 years down the road when you do a comparison of before and after – you don’t even recognize them. Because once you’re deep inside the belly of the beast things happen and people change. The big money throws out the bait and it’s too good to refuse. The rest is history. Maybe Marshall is different. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Nevertheless I wish him well and hope he wins.

      Reply this comment

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