Irwin Jacobs, the Democratic La Jolla billionaire who founded Qualcomm, is in the thick of the battle over California's school chief with a $4000 contribution on October 2 to the campaign of charter school advocate Marshall Tuck. Back in May, Jacobs made his first contribution to Tuck, $6800.
Tuck's challenge of incumbent Democrat Tom Torlakson in the race for state superintendent of public instruction has been energized by the case of Vergara v. California, in which a Superior Court judge invalidated much of California’s longtime teacher tenure and seniority system.
Torlakson, backed by the state's teachers’ unions, is backing an appeal. Charter school advocates and others who favor the ruling support Tuck, who opposes the appeal.
Jacobs's backing of fellow Democrat Tuck puts him in league with an unusual political bedfellow and regular election-time foe, U-T San Diego publisher and Republican kingpin Douglas Manchester, whose paper has endorsed Tuck and his vow to improve teacher performance. Said the paper: "California has a rapidly aging coterie of teachers."
In addition to Manchester and Jacobs, other wealthy San Diego backers of Tuck include Rod Dammeyer, another charter school advocate, who has come up with $11,800. Back in 2011, Jacobs and Dammeyer were the biggest donors to a failed initiative campaign to pack the San Diego Unified School District board with four appointed members in addition to its five elected trustees.
Despite his Tuck cash, though, Jacobs appears to have at least one well-heeled liberal ally left.
The La Jollan has been joined in his monetary support of Democratic Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom by fellow Democratic mega-billionaire George Soros, who kicked in $6800 to the Newsom reelection effort October 2. Jacobs and Soros were big money backers of Barack Obama's 2012 re-election, giving millions to a super PAC called "Priorities USA Action."
In March 2012, the San Diego Democrat gave Newsom's 2014 reelection bid $12,000 exactly a month after the former San Francisco mayor wrote a letter attacking state historic preservation officer Milford Wayne Donaldson for questioning a controversial Balboa Park traffic and parking makeover plan then being pushed by Jacobs.
"This is a project with broad local political, philanthropic and community support," asserted Newsom, "so it may be more productive to work in collaboration with the project development team to achieve your goal of preserving this historical open-space."
"As the State Historic Preservation Officer I hope that you will consider these arguments, withdraw your comments, and begin to work in collaboration with the leaders of the Plaza de Panama project."
A court ruling later ended the Jacobs plan, but Donaldson subsequently lost his job.