Pledges: ‘A voice for those who need one’
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has announced his candidacy for governor, pledging “to be a voice for those who need one.”
Thurmond joins Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and former Controller Betty Yee as official candidates in the 2026 race to succeed Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is barred from running for re-election because of term limits.
“California may be working for millionaires and billionaires, but for the rest of California, we need real change–a raise in the minimum wage; jobs that pay the bills and wages that ensure nobody who works full time is in poverty; more housing and affordable rent with additional pathways to homeownership; fully funded public schools and higher pay for classroom teachers; weapons of war taken off the streets; have faster transition to cleaner energy; inclusive communities and safer neighborhoods,” Thurmond said in an approximately three-minute, 45-second video released last week on social media.
The video has actors portraying Thurmond at various stages of his life, including as a 6-year-old whose immigrant school teacher mother died and a 9-year-old whose father “left us” after serving in the military during the Vietnam War and was raised by a cousin he never met before being dropped off on her doorstep.
“Growing up, we lived in poverty, relying on food stamps, government cheese–a lot of it–and public assistance to survive,” Thurmond said in the voiceover.
Thurmond recalled “bussing tables for $2 an hour, loading UPS trucks and working at McDonald’s for $3.35 an hour, the minimum wage back then” as he worked his way through Temple University.
“Those years taught me the value and dignity of hard work, but it also helped me understand how hard it is for workers, not just to get by, but to get ahead,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond later received dual master’s degrees in law and social policy and social work from Bryn Mawr College and became a social worker.
Thurmond was a member of the Richmond City Council from 2005-08 and the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education from 2008-12. He served in the state Assembly from 2014-2018 before being elected to the first of two terms as state superintendent of public instruction.
Thurmond describes himself as “Afro-Latino” and would be the state’s first Black governor.