Governor-elect Gavin Newsom has staked out a more aggressive stance on charter schools than his predecessor, and he's got the support of the teachers union and other labor groups who opposed Tuck.
If Tuck is elected he'll have to find a way to work with Newsom. "Tuck’s going to have to learn quickly any battle with Newsom is a tricky course for a new superintendent," says lobbyist Kevin Gordon, who represents many of the state's school districts. "The governor has so much power. Power over budget, over personnel, over the sheer size of the (education) department."
Gordon anticipates Newsom will take up efforts to reform the state's charter school law and teacher tenure laws early on. That could create tension with Tuck, and perhaps more importantly, with their very different bases. "There's a big line in the sand between labor and management," Gordon says, referring to Newsom's support from labor and Tuck's support from school administrators and charter leaders.
"The governor will know that the state superintendent is not in lockstep with his own agenda on issues, or with his base." Gordon says. "There’s room for, at the very least, tension, if not outright conflict."
Still, he touts Tuck's political savvy and says he's optimistic if Tuck wins the two will find much common ground.
Tuck's narrow lead comes at the end of a heated and expensive battle that pit the state teachers union against a self-styled education reformer with pro-charter school backers.
The change in state leadership this year could mark an inflection point for education. Gov. Jerry Brown has been friendly to charter schools, and people on both sides of the issue see his departure as an opportunity to shape policy on this and more going forward.
That's likely why spending on the race for superintendent of public instruction topped $60 million, though the position is nonpartisan, and both leading candidates were Democrats.
The contest brought in more outside spending than any other election for statewide office, leading to a barrage of increasingly negative campaign ads in the lead-up to the election.
It's now the most expensive state superintendent election in U.S. history, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Tuck and his supporters raised about twice as much as Thurmond and his.
Marshall Tuck pitched himself as the guy who will shake things up. “We need real change,” he told KQED. “The status quo in our public schools is not working. California has built massive bureaucracy around public education, and it's taken the creativity and innovation out of our schools."