Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect current vote totals as of Sunday morning.

Three challengers are separated by only a few thousand votes in the race to face incumbent Tony Thurmond in a potential runoff election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Officials continued counting ballots through the weekend, with the trio of candidates rising and falling slightly in the primary contest as more results arrived. If Thurmond does not receive 50% or more of the vote, his second-place challenger will move to a November runoff against him.

The position Thurmond and his six competitors are seeking to fill is described by the state’s voting guide as one that provides education policy direction to local school districts and working with the education community to improve academic performance.

Thurmond captured over 40% of the vote in early results. He says his priorities include hiring 10,000 mental health counselors to help students heal from the trauma associated with the pandemic, as well as pushing to recruit, retain and support 15,000 teachers so students can recover from the learning gaps they have experienced.

As of Sunday morning, Lance Ray Christensen held a narrow lead for second-most votes. He’s the vice president of education policy and government affairs at the California Policy Center, a conservative and libertarian think tank which advocates for “eliminating public-sector barriers to freedom.”

Ainye Long had the third-most votes, very close behind. The public school teacher says she plans to prioritize the needs of the schoolhouse, establishing measurable impact and providing opportunities and resources for the public to be knowledge of the needs and well-being of local schools.

George Yang was not far behind Long. According to his campaign website, the software architect says he has a plan to use existing funding to build an after-school program that will allow children to pursue arts, sports and vocational skills.