The race for State Superintendent of Instruction in California is the most expensive in history for a top state education
job. California-based Capital & Main predicts the spending will top $50 million, with Marshall Tuck outspending Tony Thurmond by 2-1.

All the usual billionaires have clustered behind Tuck—the Waltons, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, etc.

The Republican Party has embraced Tuck. Its gubernatorial candidate John H. Cox endorsed Tuck on Saturday on Twitter.

But that’s not all.

The billionaires want this job, and they want it bad. Tuck is their man. He is also the Republican party’s man.

Capitol & Main writes:

One problem with having the Walmart Waltons foot a candidate’s bills is the presumptive link to the far-right agenda of Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos. Carrie Walton Penner’s support for DeVos included a board seat on her pet pro-voucher organization, Alliance for School Choice. Tuck’s moneyed backers are also betting big on neoliberal neophyte Buffy Wicks (and against progressive firebrand Jovanka Beckles) to fill Thurmond’s Assembly District 15 seat. If successful, Wicks could help dilute any legislative fixes of charters before they reach the desk of Gavin Newsom, the gubernatorial bête noir of the California Charter School Association.

One advantage to having Walmart-sized buying power is traction. In mid-October, EdVoice’s $8.55 million “thermonuclear” media response to a $3 million pro-Thurmond ad buy had Tuck squeaking ahead in the polls by October 24.

That lead widened in last Wednesday’s University of California, Berkeley IGS Poll, with Tuck polling 48 percent to Thurmond’s 36 (although a self-survey on has Thurmond at 46 and Tuck at 34). The poll noted that 64 percent of Republicans favored Tuck, compared to 14 percent for Thurmond.

Tuck’s appeal to the right is no accident. Last week, members of California’s congressional delegation called on Tuck to disavow the $233,000 EdVoice has spent to plaster his face on Republican slate mailers around the state. During the primary, Tuck appeared on reelection mailers for key Trump allies Devin Nunes (R-CA 22) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23). This time out, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA 13) complained, he’s effectively helping Republicans in districts key to Democratic hopes to flip Congress in Tuesday’s hoped-for blue wave. They include the 25th District, where 31-year-old Katie Hill appears poised to knock out Republican Steve Knight, and the 45th District, where UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter hopes to retire Orange County Trump loyalist Mimi Walters. And on Saturday, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox tweeted his endorsement of Tuck, alongside that of Republican EdVoice cofounder Steve Poizner for state insurance commissioner.

Tuck is also taking heat for EdVoice attack ads tarring Thurmond with racially tinged falsehoods. On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California objected to its name being used on a Tuck slate mailer that doubled down on debunked claims in an EdVoice TV spot that the Obama White House “reprimanded” Thurmond over mishandling of Title IX claims when he was a school board member. That ad earned Tuck an angry censure by state Democratic Party Women’s Caucus Chair Christine Pelosi and Southern Chair Carolyn Fowler, along with NAACP Hawaii president Alice Huffman, over the ad’s alleged use of racist “dog whistles” and for “being willing to weaponize children’s trauma.”

The record-shattering spending on Tuck ultimately mirrors the threat level that a Sacramento without Jerry Brown represents to EdVoice executive director Bill Lucia. With Gavin Newsom ahead of his Republican opponent, John Cox, by 18 points in Wednesday’s poll, Newsom’s pledges for greater accountability and a moratorium on further expansion in charter-heavy districts are the stuff that keeps California school privatizers turning in their sleep. Of the supe candidates, Tuck alone has flatly rejected a “pause” in favor of limited financial help to those districts for orderly downsizing through school closures and mass teacher layoffs. For the laissez-faire ed-reform faithful, “disruption” is proof that deregulated markets and robust competition are working.