In an extremely close race that is still not official, retired public school superintendent Larry Aceves and state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson appear to be heading for a run-off in the November general election for California Superintendent of Public Instruction.

With not all of the votes counted, newspapers have not yet called the race. But if the numbers hold, Aceves will have pulled off something of an unexpected win yesterday, pushing better-known state Senator Gloria Romero out of the picture.

So far, Romero, an education reformer, stands in third place in the non-partisan primary.

Torlakson, who was backed by the powerful and deep-pocketed California Teachers Association and finds himself in second, was expected to at least grab one of the top two slots.

As of now, Aceves has captured first place with 595,739 votes (18.8 percent of the vote), according to the California Secretary of State's Office. Torlakson has won 571,006 votes (18 percent), and Romero trails both men with 545,864 votes (17.2 percent).

In a year where politicians have faced wide public distrust, coupled with the fact that few voters know the candidates well, Aceves may be the beneficiary of his ballot designation — he is the only person who describes himself as a “retired school superintendent.”

On the ballot, Romero calls herself an “educator/senator” and Torlakson is a “teacher/California legislator.”

If nothing changes, Aceves will face an extremely difficult battle against Torlakson, who will receive big money and vast campaign resources from the 325,000-member CTA.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly