Tony Thurmond launches campaign for governor

Thurmond’s entrance into the race pits two top Democratic officials against each other with possibly more on the horizon.

California’s top education official has entered the race for governor in 2026. 

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced Tuesday that he is running to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom when the latter is termed out of office, pitting him against another top Democratic official early on in the race. 


Driving the news: Thurmond announced his candidacy on X, positioning himself as the person to bring real change to the Golden State. 

The backstory: Thurmond was first elected as the California Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2018, narrowly beating fellow Democrat Marshall Tuck by a 50.9 to 49.1 percent margin. 

  • Despite taking heat for test scores dropping in the wake of COVID-19 fueled school shutdowns, Thurmond was reelected last year by over 27 points against Republican Lance Christensen. 
  • Earlier this year Thurmond was forcibly removed from a Chino Valley Unified School Board meeting after speaking against a trangender notification policy. 
  • Before ascending to the state’s top education position, Thurmond served in the Assembly from 2014-2018, which was preceded by time with the West Contra Costa School Board and the Richmond City Council. 

What we’re watching: While Thurmond is seeking to become the first Black governor of California, he faces a tough road ahead against fellow Democrat Eleni Kounalakis. 

  • Kounalakis, California’s current Lieutenant Governor, would be the Golden State’s first woman to ascend to the top. 
  • California Attorney General Rob Bonta has also been speculated to enter the race, which could muddle the field even more among the state’s top Democrats. 

What they’re saying: “Our campaign isn’t about any one person,” Thurmond said in his campaign video. “It’s about people who are struggling across our state. Because California should be a place where everyone has a chance to succeed. No matter who you are, or where you’re from. And together, we can make that a reality.”

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