Tony Thurmond, who is California’s public schools chief, announced Tuesday that he is running for governor in 2026.
“California’s had a lot of governors. My story is nothing like theirs. I didn’t come from money, power, or influence,” Thurmond said in a YouTube video launching his gubernatorial campaign.
“Today, California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. Our state is home to some of the wealthiest people on the planet. We are also home to the poorest people in America, and the crises are only growing.”
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and former state Controller Betty Yee— who like Thurmond are Democrats —are already in the race to succeed Gavin Newsom. Another Democrat, Attorney General Rob Bonta, has said he is considering a run.
Thurmond has enjoyed strong support from organized labor throughout his political career.
Social Worker Turned Politician
A former social worker, Thurmond was elected to the Richmond City Council in 2006 and later served on the West Contra Costa School Board. In 2024, he won election to the Assembly. Four years later, he defeated charter schools executive and venture capitalist Marshall Tuck to become the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Thurmond won re-election to that post in 2022.
Thurmond’s political career has been accompanied by controversy.
For example, Politico reported in 2021 that Thurmond created such a toxic work environment nearly two dozen staff left the state education department.
And, earlier this year, he was escorted out of a Chino Valley Unified School District board meeting after he showed up to oppose a district policy requiring district staff to inform a parent if a student changes gender identity.
Watch: Tony Thurmond’s Campaign Launch Video