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Outside money flows in state schools superintendent race

Outside money flows in state schools superintendent race
In February, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson joined a statewide three-day bus tour of child care facilities. One of the stops was at Ramona's Day Care in Long Beach, where Isaiah Miranda, 4, plays with an accordion. (Christina House / For The Times)

In the race to be the state's schools chief, candidates Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck have roughly the same amount -- well under $1 million -- going into the election's final weeks, according to campaign reports filed with the state.

But the real intrigue is in the groups and individuals pouring money into independent efforts that could sway voters. The race pits Democrat against Democrat for a nonpartisan post.

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Incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck represent opposing camps in the Democratic Party about the role of standardized tests, teacher tenure and other hot-button education debates.

Torlakson has a powerful ally in the state's teachers unions, and the California Teachers Assn. reported spending nearly $2 million on television advertisements about him. Deemed "issue advocacy," the ads cannot by law call for the election or defeat of a candidate but can be framed in a way that may influence voters.

A new independent campaign committee was formed in support of Tuck. It has raised $542,880, primarily from two wealthy L.A.-area donors who have sided against teachers unions: Eli Broad and William Bloomfield.

More money is widely expected to flow in what is typically a sleepy contest to be elected state superintendent of public instruction.

As for the candidates, Tuck has a narrow edge in his own candidacy account. He reported $699,037 in the bank, with $45,157.45 in debt. Torlakson had $608,609 in his account and $54,577 in debt.

Follow @LATSeema for political news.

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