UPDATE: Tuck has succeeded in forcing incumbent Torlakson into a November runoff last night, with 99.4 percent of the vote counted. And that means an all-out Education War on the November ballot. See below.
The early vote-by-mail ballots are in, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is in the lead with 49 percent, followed by well-known charter school proponent Marshall Tuck with 27.4 percent and teacher Lydia A. Gutiérrez with 23.4 percent.
If Tuck and Gutierrez keep Torlakson below 50 percent in this June 3 primary (an unknown at this point), California will see a massive, nationally-funded war between teachers union ally Torlakson and a growing reform movement (in this case, in the person of Tuck) that believes teachers' unions are part of the problem facing failing schools.
For more background, see: Why the California School Superintendent's Race is Rich Versus Rich
Torlakson was being backed by the California Teachers Association, who'd spent over $4.5 million touting the incumbent, who is a former teacher and state Assemblyman, and blasting Tuck, who previously ran the Green Dot Charter organization and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a reform network that instituted major changes at 17 LAUSD schools.
Tuck's had his own backing from billionaire school-reform cheerleader Eli Broad and the well-to-do Bill Bloomfield, who founded the group "No Labels" to promote politically moderate candidates.
Bloomfield has spent big in this election cycle on a cluster of candidates, including California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari and state Assembly candidate Ben Allen.
Since this is a non-partisan race, under California law if one candidate can muster 50 percent plus one of the electorate, he or she wins outright during the primary.
If not, the top two candidates will face off in the November general election - where many more millions will surely be spent.
Updated at 10:34:
Incumbent Tom Torlakson 904,679 or 48.9%, Marshall Tuck 505,578 or 27.3%, Lydia A. Gutiérrez 439,109 or
23.7%. Torlakson's team must be stressed to the max, hoping to close the margin and beat Tuck outright tonight.
Updated at 11:26 p.m.:
With 42.4 percent of precincts counted, it is unknown whether outspoken charter reform advocate Marshall Tuck has won the right to face incumbent Tom Torlakson in November. Torlakson needs 50 percent plus a single vote to win it all tonight, and he's very close.
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The numbers: Tom Torlakson 1,023,861 votes or 48.5%, Marshall Tuck 581,721 or 27.6%, Lydia A. Gutiérrez 504,108 or 23.9%.
Updated at 3:19 a.m.:
Tom Torlakson's seemingly endless negative ads attacking outspoken charter school advocate Marshall Tuck appear to have backfired last night, with the incumbent, who was fueled by a far bigger pot of money than Tuck, failing to edge over the 50 percent needed to win outright.
The numbers, with 98.4 percent of precincts reporting: Torlakson 46.9 percent, Tuck 28.6 percent, Gutierrez 24.5 percent.
Also contributing to this article were Ani Ucar and Jill Stewart.