SD7: Tom Torlakson endorses Susan Bonilla

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson endorsed Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla on Wednesday in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

Torlakson is the state’s top education official, and used to hold the very same senate seat that Bonilla, D-Concord, now seeks. He’s the first statewide elected official to weigh in on this race, in which the special primary is scheduled for March 17 and the special general for May 19.

“As a classroom teacher and state assemblywoman, Susan Bonilla has dedicated her life to California’s children and our public schools,” Torlakson said. “She has been an important and irreplaceable voice for improving academic standards, putting more students on the path to college, and ensuring every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

Bonilla called Torlakson “a consistent and dedicated champion for public education. Our students and our state have benefited tremendously from his leadership and I’m honored to have his support.”

Vying with Bonilla in this election are former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin, all Democrats. Republican Michaela Hertle dropped out and endorsed Glazer, but her name remains on the ballot.

Asked if he had any comment on Torlakson’s endorsement, Glazer replied, “This is a Buchanan problem, not mine.”

Glazer has burned bridges to much of his own party and the labor unions that support it, first in 2012 by working as a political strategist for the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC – which backed moderate Democrats over more liberal, labor-friendly ones – and again in 2013 by urging a ban on transit-worker strikes.


Actors tout Tuck for schools superintendent

Marshall Tuck, the Los Angeles school-reform advocate who’s running neck and neck with incumbent Tom Torlakson for superintendent of public instruction, has added a little star power to his campaign.

Tuck’s new two-and-a-half minute campaign video features actors Joel McHale, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Adam Scott sitting down with the candidate in a “strategy session.”

My favorite line (of course): “You’ve been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Who gives a s—?”

Tuck’s campaign issued a news release saying that while the video provides some humor amid a heated campaign, it takes a serious look at key issues facing the race.

“As a parent, I want to make sure we give every child access to a great education,” Bell said in the news release.

Celebrity factoid: Of these four actors, only Scott is a California native, born in Santa Cruz. Bell and Shepard hail from Detroit’s suburbs, McHale from Seattle.

UPDATE @ 11:47 A.M.: Good questions from Twitter follower Steven Herbert: “Do any of them have children old enough to be in public schools? If so, how many are in public schools?”

Bell and Shepard have one daughter, Lincoln Bell Shepard, born in March 2013, and they’re now expecting a second child; they live in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Scott and his wife, Naomi, have two children, son Graham, 7, and daughter Frankie, 5, and live in LA’s Hollywood Hills section. McHale and his wife, Sarah Williams, have two sons, Eddie, 8, and Isaac, 6; they live in Hollywood Hills as well.

I don’t know what schools the kids attend.


Money matchups: AD15, AD16, AD25 & more

We’re hard at work crunching campaign finance reports today, and while we’ve featured a few in the story for tomorrow’s print editions, here are a few other notable Bay Area races to watch.


  • Democrat Elizabeth Echols of Oakland, former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration, raised $120,102 – including a $15,000 loan from her own pocket – and spent $70,192 in 2013’s latter half; her campaign had $120,136 cash on and $23,439 in debts at year’s end.
  • Democrat Sam Kang of Emeryville, general counsel for an economic justice advocacy group, raised $83,070 and spent $38,714, leaving him with $112,453 cash on hand with $2,936 in debts.
  • Democrat Andy Katz of Berkeley, president of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s board, raised $47,287 and spent $30,107, leaving $66,164 cash on hand with $7,250 in debts.
  • Democrat Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member, raised $62,728 and spent $47,569, winding up with $55,767 cash on hand and $13,213 in debts.
  • Democrat Cecilia Valdez, a San Pablo councilwoman, hasn’t filed a report yet.
  • Republican Richard Kinney, a San Pablo councilman, hasn’t filed a report yet.

  • Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer, a Democrat who was political adviser to Brown’s 2010 campaign, raised $111,718 and spent $20,987 in 2013’s second half, finishing the year with $329,074 cash on hand and $705 in debts.
  • Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a Democrat, raised $105,590 in 2013’s second half while spending $118,381; his campaign had $94,203 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, with $16,022 in debts.
  • Attorney Catharine Baker, a Republican from Dublin, raised $123,920 in 2013’s second half – including $4,100 from her own pocket – while spending $18,436; her campaign had $109,989 cash on hand as of Dec. 31 with $4,505 in debts.
  • Danville Vice Mayor Newell Arnerich, a Democrat, hasn’t filed his report yet.

  • San Jose City Councilman Kansen Chu, a Democrat, raised $66,015 and spent $22,153 in the second half of 2013; he had $201,695 cash on hand as of Dec. 31 with $1,843 in debts.
  • Milpitas Councilman Armando Gomez, a Democrat, raisd $168,499 and spent $22,168 in 2013’s second half; his campaign had $155,431 cash on hand and no debt at the year’s end.
  • Former Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler, a Democrat, raised $111,167 in the second half of 2013 while spending $7,999; his campaign had $104,289 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, with $9,717 in debts.
  • Ohlone College Board of Trustees member Teresa Cox, a Democrat, raised $90,772 and spent $32,389 in 2013’s second half; her campaign had $93,295 cash on hand but $80,668 in debts as of Dec. 31.
  • California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, seeking re-election to a second four-year term in the nonpartisan post, raised $592,775 in 2013’s second half while spending $210,999. The Pittsburg Democrat’s campaign had $556,561 cash on hand as of Dec. 31 with $53,814 in outstanding debts.

    But a Democratic challenger from Southern California hit the ground running with an impressive haul. Marshall Tuck, founding CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, raised $532,175 in 2013’s second half while spending $168,901; his campaign had $399,685 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, with $36,397 in outstanding debts.

    Lydia Gutierrez, an independent teacher from San Pedro who also sought this office in 2010, hasn’t filed a report yet.


    Tom Torlakson outspent Larry Aceves 5-to-1

    Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson‘s 2010 campaign outraised and outspent his rival’s in last year’s election by about 5-to-1, according to campaign finance reports filed last night.

    Larry AcevesThe longtime lawmaker from Antioch raised about $2.47 million and spent about $2.49 million in 2009-10, while the campaign of Larry Aceves, a former school administrator from Fremont, raised about $504,000 and spent about $501,000.

    The candidates’ campaign committees don’t tell the whole story, however – each had substantial independent expenditures made on his behalf.

    The Association of California School Administrators funded an independent expenditure committee supporting Aceves to the tune of almost $2.46 million in 2009-10.

    Still, Torlakson had the money advantage: An IE committee created in May by the California Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association spent about $3.95 million in 2010 on his behalf.

    Torlakson and Aceves were the top two vote-getters in a crowded field of 12 candidates in June’s primary; Aceves actually finished on top with 19.2 percent of the vote to Torlakson’s 18.6 percent. But in November’s runoff for the nonpartisan seat, Torlakson dominated with 54.6 percent of the vote to Aceves’ 44.9 percent (as a write-in candidate drew off 0.5 percent of the vote).


    Sup’t of Public Instr. ballot fight in court today

    A Sacramento County Superior Court judge is likely to rule later today, after a 3:30 p.m. hearing, on a lawsuit challenging state Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Larry Aceves’ ballot designation as a “Retired School Superintendent.”

    Larry AcevesAceves, 66, a Fremont Democrat, is competing with Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, for the nonpartisan office in November’s general election.

    This lawsuit was filed last Wednesday against Secretary of State Debra Bowen (who approved the designation) not by Torlakson’s campaign, but by Torlakson campaign donor Betty Sue Cleveland of Livermore, a life member of and political organizer for the California School Employees Association – which supports Torlakson’s campaign. (Here’s someone’s Flickr shot of Torlakson and Cleveland together at a CSEA event earlier this month.)

    Cleveland is represented by the Los Angeles-based Kaufman Legal Group, whose client list is a who’s who of Southern California labor and Democratic politics; there’s no requirement that Cleveland or her attorneys disclose who’s bankrolling the lawsuit, and neither have done so.

    California Election Code Section 13107(a)(3) says a candidate is entitled to a ballot designation of “(n)o more than three words designating either the current principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate, or the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents.”

    The lawsuit claims Aceves has done something else as his principal vocation since working as a school superintendent from 1991 to 2006; he was a partner in Leadership Associates – an employment search and placement firm focusing on school district managers – from 2006 through 2009.

    Bowen contends she has no way to independently verify what Aceves has done since retiring as a superintendent. And Aceves contends he worked no more than 210 hours for Leadership Associates during the three years he was a partner there, and was drawing retirement benefits all through that time, so his designation is sound.

    The deadline for a ruling draws nigh; tomorrow (Thursday, Aug. 26) is the day Bowen is supposed to send county registrars a certified list of candidates with ballot designations.

    Torlakson’s ballot designation, by the way, is “Teacher/California Legislator.” Torlakson, 61, holds a secondary teaching credential and a Master’s degree in education from the University of California, Berkeley, but has held elected office for a loooong time – as an Antioch councilman from 1978 to 1981; a Contra Costa County supervisor from 1980 to 1996; an Assemblyman from 1996 to 1999; a state Senator from 2000 to 2008; and an Assemblyman again since 2009.

    The League of Women Voters’ SmartVoter.org site says he hasn’t worked at the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in 30 years. He says he’s on the faculty at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, but I don’t see his name in the faculty directory. I do, however, see that he’s teaching a one-credit “short course” this fall – six lectures of about three hours each – on California politics and governance.

    UPDATE @ 10:48 A.M. THURSDAY: Aceves won.


    A musical primary post-mortem

    When I’m having a good day, or sometimes when I’m down, I sometimes give myself a gift on the limited budget available to me as a reporter: a 99-cent splurge on new iTunes song for my iPod. And so as the primary election winners strut and the losers lick their wounds, here are a few suggestions for songs they might want to add to their playlists:

    Meg Whitman, the billionaire former eBay CEO who spent $71.1 million out of her own pocket to buy the Republican gubernatorial nomination: “Money” by Pink Floyd, or “Killer Queen” by Queen

    Steve Poizner, buried under Whitman’s $71.1 million and a 37-percentage-point deficit in the election results: “Wipeout” by the Surfaris

    Chris Kelly, who spent $12 million out of pocket to lose the Democratic primary for Attorney General to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris by 17 percentage points; PG&E President and CEO Peter Darbee, whose company spent $46.4 million on the unsuccessful Proposition 16; and Mercury Insurance Group President and CEO Gabriel Tirador, whose company spent $15.9 million on the unsuccessful Proposition 17: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by the Beatles

    Carly Fiorina, who as the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate has had the last laugh after people snickered at her “demon sheep” ad attacking rival Tom Campbell: “Sheep” by Pink Floyd

    Abel Maldonado, the appointed incumbent who – despite winning the GOP’s nomination to try to keep the lieutenant governor’s office – knows his party wants him and needs him but there ain’t no way it’s ever gonna love him: “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” by Meat Loaf

    Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco mayor who won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor but might have his own words from 2008 on same-sex marriage come back to haunt him in November’s general election: “Like It Or Not,” by Madonna

    Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles District Attorney who broke from California tradition by being a moderate capable of winning a Republican primary: “Middle of the Road,” by the Pretenders

    Tom Torlakson, the Antioch Assemblyman who placed second and so will go to a November runoff – at which time he’s likely to pick up a lot of the Democratic votes that went yesterday to third-place finisher Gloria Romero, along with stronger Democratic turnout overall – against former school district superintendent Larry Aceves for state Superintendent of Public Instruction: “Time Is On My Side,” by the Rolling Stones

    Mike Villines, the Clovis Assemblyman and former Assembly Republican Leader widely berated within the GOP for OKing a budget deal with tax hikes last year, who now is eight-tenths of a percentage point – 11,204 votes – behind political unknown Brian FitzGerald, an Insurance Department attorney from Napa who raised no money, in the GOP primary for Insurance Commissioner: “Living on the Edge” by Aerosmith

    Brian FitzGerald, who might want to ask himself, “Well, how did I get here?” : “Once in a Lifetime,” by the Talking Heads