Confessions of an Uninformed Voter

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman November 5, 2014 20:24

I USED TO know everything about politics and elections. Friends would ask me how obscure state propositions would affect their pocketbooks and which cemetery district candidate would best take care of Aunt Mabel’s grave.

But after 38 years on the job with the local newspaper, I retired three years ago and now I’m like the rest of you — I learn about candidates through their opponents’ political ads.

After hearing all of these smears and hit pieces, I was surprised that the guy who doesn’t believe California kids are entitled to good teachers won.

But I was relieved that the guy who lost is a terrible administrator whose own teachers slammed him with multiple votes of no confidence and whose schools were socked with tax liens by the IRS.

So went our state’s megabucks campaign for superintendent of public instruction, a supposedly nonpartisan office ideally occupied by scholarly Mr. Chips-types with multiple doctoral degrees and a quiet commitment to the Golden State’s children.

No more: Winner and incumbent Tom Torlakson (likes bad teachers) and challenger Marshall Tuck (is a bad administrator) staged a nasty $30 million battle for a $150,000-a-year job that’s become a comfortable refuge for termed–out state legislators.

The ’14 superintendent’s campaign was the dirtiest, most expensive in the state, and both candidates were Democrats. Out-of-staters may raise their eyebrows at this, but the GOP is on life support in much of California, so Dems fight each other.

Tuck’s ads portrayed Torlakson as a teachers-union stooge willing to swap our kids’ future for millions in campaign cash. Not only that, but they hinted that the incumbent would probably look the other way while teacher tenure was granted to parolees, drug addicts and guys on Megan’s List.

And Tuck? Well, Torlakson’s cronies labeled him a “neo-liberal operative who’s never taught a day in his life” bankrolled with “mountains of cash from the corporate education plutocracy.” Whatever that is.

I knew almost nothing about Torlakson and absolutely nothing about Tuck until the 2014 campaign began – then my opinion of both plummeted.

On Nov. 4, I held my nose and voted for the guy I deemed marginally less rotten.

Meanwhile, questions about the teacher tenure, as they should be, will be debated as we go forward.

Nevertheless, I expect that Torlakson will retreat to the comfortable near-anonymity of his office for four more years. Then, in 2018, term limits will force him from the superintendent’s post and, probably into a race for secretary of state, lieutenant governor or whatever rung of the Sacramento ladder looks best.

As for Marshall Tuck, in four years he’ll be the answer to a trivia question.

And me? I’m thinking I should study up on issues and candidates before the next election — although slander and smear are far more entertaining.

But I am pretty happy our state superintendent has less job security than a bad grade-school teacher with tenure. No, we voters didn’t fire him this time, but it’s nice to know we can.









Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman November 5, 2014 20:24
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1 Comment

  1. Wells Wheeler November 9, 08:50

    The problem with being an informed voter is that it is so much work, and I’m so lazy. Speaking of education, check this out: The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking via @BillMoyersHQ This is frightening! Thanks, Chris, and when is the next Sonora Roundup?

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