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Phil Matier: California's Election Day Races With Nationwide Interest

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— We've all heard the projections of low-voter turnout for Tuesday's election here in California. But there are a few local races getting nationwide attention.

I'd say the spotlight is shining on the race for state schools superintendent between Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck. It's a very big race in California. What we have here is two very big forces lining up at the scrimmage line.

We've got the California Teacher's Association (CTA) on one side and we've got charter school groups and reformers on the other side that has pumped about $30 million into this race. The union is behind Torlakson with the opposing side behind Tuck.

Educators in the rest of the country are wondering what will happen in that race because the CTA has had a hammerlock on that job and if there's any movement it could be felt across the country.

Phil Matier: California's Election Day Races With Nationwide Interest

Dan Schnur at the University of Southern California has pointed out that the issue of traditional schools versus well-funded charter schools and reform has the ability to divide the Democratic Party the same way abortion and immigration issues has divided Republicans.

It's interesting that the two people running for this job are Democrats. That's one of the reasons why it's neck and neck, down to the wire in this race.

It's not like other races where voters see the "D" or the "R" and they simply align themselves with the party they subscribe to.

A similar race is the San Jose Mayoral race. This time the issues at hand are police unions and pensions. The state of California hit a big wave of pension reform a few years back, but that wave has started to recede.

Questions are now starting to arise like: Maybe we've asked too much of public employees. Maybe we cut too much?

On the other hand, others; including candidate and San Jose City Councilmember Sam Liccardo, feel those types of questions lead to regression. His opponent, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese feels the pension reform has asked too much and says he wants to change things.

We've also got the young gun Democrat trying to oust the older more experienced candidate in the race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ro Khanna is trying to unseat South Bay Congressman Mike Honda.

There was a time in California when if you were elected to Congress, whether you were Democrat or Republican, with the way the districts were drawn and with the seniority network, you pretty much stayed in your seat for life. Younger politicians are now saying they don't want to wait for some of these elder, seated lawmakers to decide when they want to retire.

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