California Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond considers run for governor

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
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California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is “seriously exploring” running for governor in 2026.

The state’s top schools chief made the announcement on Wednesday evening after forming a campaign committee.

Thurmond, a former state legislator who was first elected superintendent in 2018, said he is “fully focused” on his current job but will begin the process of potentially running for governor.


“Working families across California are facing so many challenges that require our entire state government working together to solve,” Thurmond said in a statement. “Growing up as a Black and Latino kid without my parents, I lived the struggles that so many Californians face every day — that’s why I dedicated my career to fighting for a brighter future for California’s children.”

Thurmond, a Democrat whose office is nonpartisan, did not shy away from politics in his announcement, saying he has been “taking on MAGA extremists.”

Last month, he and state Democrats launched a task force to monitor textbook publishers amid reports of book banning in red states, doubling down on California’s commitment to diverse and inclusive education.

The former Bay Area Assembly member coasted to reelection in 2022 against Republican challenger Lance Christensen, with nearly 64% of the vote.

His win came despite criticism of his handling of pandemic school closures and controversies including a staff turnover problem in the Department of Education and the hiring of out-of-state officials, which led to resignations.

A proposed constitutional amendment introduced this year could make it so that future state superintendents are appointed by the governor rather than elected, a move that comes after much debate about Thurmond’s influence, with critics saying he has not done enough in his role overseeing nearly 6 million public school students.


But Thurmond has had the backing of powerful endorsements in the past, including the California Democratic Party, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

Newsom’s term ends in 2027. Lieutenant Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat, has also announced an early bid for governor.