Tom Torlakson

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Tom Torlakson
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.jpg
27th California Superintendent of Public Instruction
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jerry Brown
Preceded by Jack O'Connell
Member of the California Senate
from the 7th district
In office
December 2000 – November 2008
Preceded by Richard Rainey
Succeeded by Mark DeSaulnier
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 11th district
In office
December 2008 – November 2010
Preceded by Mark DeSaulnier
Succeeded by Susan Bonilla
In office
December 1996 – November 2000
Preceded by George Miller IV
Succeeded by Joe Canciamilla
Personal details
Born (1949-07-19) July 19, 1949 (age 69)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mae Cendana (m. 2009)
Education University of California, Berkeley (BA, MA)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1967–1971
Unit Merchant Marine
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Thomas A. "Tom" Torlakson (born July 19, 1949) is an American politician from California. In 2010, he was elected to the position of California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

He previously served three terms in the California State Assembly, representing the 11th district, which consists of northern portions of Contra Costa County. He also served two terms in the California State Senate, representing the 7th district.

Early life[edit]

Torlakson was born in San Francisco on July 19, 1949. His grandfather worked in San Francisco as a U.S. Coast Guard seaman. Torlakson's father worked as a welder, building Liberty cargo ships for World War II. Torlakson's mother worked as a school secretary and in the postal service.[citation needed] His younger brother, James Torlakson, is an artist in San Francisco, California. Another younger brother (Christopher Torlakson) is deceased. Torlakson attended Westmoor High School in Daly City, California. On May 25, 2017, Torlakson issued the commencement address where he graduated from 50 years ago.

Torlakson served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1970. His assignments included Guam, Vietnam, Thailand and later on Chevron oil tankers to Alaska which was his first job where he was a union member. In 1968, he received the Merchant Marines Vietnam Service Medal. After his maritime service, Torlakson attended the University of California, Berkeley. He earned a B.A. in History in 1971, and an M.A. in Education in 1977. Torlakson is married to Mae Cendana, a member of the Ambrose Recreation and Park District board of directors.[1] He has two daughters, Tiffany and Tamara,[2] from a previous marriage.

Torlakson became a science teacher in 1972. He worked as a teacher in Bay Area high schools for six years and was a member of the California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association.[citation needed]

Local politics[edit]

Torlakson was elected to the Antioch City Council in 1978. Torlakson was selected as the Mayor Pro-Tem. He was involved in Antioch city politics from 1978 to 1981 when he was chairman of the Delta Protection Commission. Subsequently, he was elected to become a member of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors from District 5 (then East Contra Costa County) for 16 years from 1981 to 1996 when he choose to be a candidate for the California Assembly.[citation needed]

First two State Assembly terms[edit]

Torlakson challenged George Miller IV, son of the congressman George Miller III, for a California State Assembly seat. Torlakson was a campaigner with the slogan, "His own name, his own record."[3] Torlakson was elected to the California's 11th State Assembly district in 1996 and 1998.[citation needed]

Torlakson authored legislation to provide $50 million to elementary and junior high schools statewide for after-school programs that eventually was increased to $550 million annually. He was an architect of the plan for school facilities funding that became Proposition 1A. Californians approved with a 62% "yes" vote in November 1998, allowing $9.2 billion for new schools and for the modernization and rehabilitation of older schools. He also helped provide funding for numerous day care and Head Start centers.[citation needed]

Torlakson assisted in labor negotiations during local labor disputes including a Kaiser strike, a 22-month contract battle between SEIU Local 250 and Sutter Delta Delta Medical Center, and the BFI-Teamster garbage strike.[citation needed]

Torlakson helped implement the Transportation Congestion Relief Plan that allocated $5 billion, largely using sales taxes on gasoline, for transportation improvements though the Legislature often diverts this money to cover the state budget deficit.[citation needed]

Torlakson backed legislation that requires regular maintenance and mechanical inspections of all permanent amusement park rides. He sought the regulations after a fatal waterslide accident at Waterworld in Concord in 1997.[citation needed]

State Senate[edit]

First campaign[edit]

Torlakson was elected to the California State Senate for the 7th Senate District in 2000. Torlakson ran against incumbent Republican State Senator Richard Rainey.[citation needed]

During his first term in the State Senate, Torlakson supported legislation that merged the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation. Torlakson authored laws that extend to 10 years the time a person's DUI conviction remains on his or her record and other tightened restrictions.[citation needed]

Torlakson was Chairman of the Senate's Majority Caucus and the Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. He was also a member of the Senate Local Government Committee.[citation needed]

During his first term, he worked to reduce suburban sprawl, push localities to build affordable housing, and to improve the health of Californians. Torlakson was against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal of having the Bay Area pay the complete cost of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge's new eastern span to replace the span damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.[citation needed]

Second term[edit]

Perata appointed Torlakson to chair the important Senate Appropriations Committee.[3]

Torlakson was also a member of the Education Committee and the Transportation and Housing Committee, and he was Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Schools and Community.[citation needed]

Of the 20 bills Torlakson sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, 18 were signed into law, including legislation to streamline and improve California's after school programs and provide $2.9 billion in additional funding to the state's lowest performing schools.[citation needed]

Third State Assembly term[edit]

Torlakson did not seek a third Senate term in 2008. Torlakson and Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier switched offices. After serving only one term in the Assembly, DeSaulnier was elected to replace Torlakson in the Senate while Torlakson was elected to replace DeSaulnier in the Assembly to finish the final of the three Assembly terms allowed.[citation needed]

State Superintendent[edit]

Torlakson at the 2011 Democratic Party of California state convention

Torlakson ran for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 2010 elections, defeating Larry Aceves in the general election held on November 2, 2010. Torlakson replaced Jack O'Connell, who was termed out of office. He was re-elected in 2014 against Marshall Tuck.[4]

As Superintendent, Torlakson is eighth in the line of succession to the office of Governor of California. On Monday, July 25, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown; Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom; Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; Secretary of State Alex Padilla; then Attorney General Kamala Harris; Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; and Board of Equalization chair Fiona Ma were all out of state attending the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, leaving Torlakson Acting Governor.[5][6] As Acting Governor, Torlakson proclaimed a state of emergency for the Sand Fire in Los Angeles County and the Soberanes Fire in Monterey County.[7]

Electoral history[edit]

California State Assembly 11th District Democratic Primary Election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Torlakson 23,689 51.02
Democratic George Miller 22,746 48.98
California State Assembly 11th District Election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Torlakson 81,820 60.02
Republican Bill Maxfield 42,137 30.91
Natural Law Eleanor Sheppard 12,375 9.06
California State Assembly 11th District Election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Torlakson (inc.) 80,323 69.02
Republican Allen Payton 36,046 30.98
California State Senate 7th District Election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Torlakson 197,683 54.5
Republican Dick Rainey 156,107 43.0
Natural Law Mark Billings 9,334 2.5
California State Senate 7th District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Torlakson (inc.) 282,714 100.0
California State Assembly 11th District Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Torlakson 117,773 73.8
Republican Elizabeth Hansen 42,023 26.2
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Larry Aceves 832,938 19.2
Nonpartisan Tom Torlakson 808,970 18.6
Nonpartisan Gloria Romero 738,032 17.0
Nonpartisan Lydia Gutierrez 384,514 8.9
Nonpartisan Grant McMicken 309,499 7.2
Nonpartisan Karen Blake 299,492 6.9
Nonpartisan Diane Lenning 270,570 6.2
Nonpartisan Daniel Nusbaum 217,220 4.9
Nonpartisan Alexia Deligianni 212,145 4.8
Nonpartisan Leonard James Martin 123,791 2.8
Nonpartisan Henry Williams, Jr. 125,283 2.8
Nonpartisan Faarax Dahir Sheikh-Noor 33,586 0.7
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Tom Torlakson 4,222,946 54.6
Nonpartisan Larry Aceves 3,476,243 44.9
Nonpartisan/Write-in Diane Lenning 46,061 0.5
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Tom Torlakson (inc.) 1,767,257 46.5
Nonpartisan Marshall Tuck 1,098,441 28.9
Nonpartisan Lydia Gutiérrez 931,719 24.5
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Tom Torlakson (inc.) 3,167,212 52.1
Nonpartisan Marshall Tuck 2,906,989 47.9


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Archived November 8, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Blume, Howard (November 5, 2014). "Marshall Tuck concedes to Tom Torlakson in state schools chief race". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Tom Torlakson takes charge of California with top six leaders gone". San Jose Mercury News. July 31, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  6. ^ Myers, John (July 25, 2016). "Who's governor of California? This week, it's not Jerry Brown". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Acting Governor Torlakson Declares State of Emergency in Los Angeles and Monterey Counties". Office of the Governor. July 26, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jack O'Connell
California Superintendent of Public Instruction