COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Six Republicans and three Democrats are seeking their parties’ nominations for South Carolina’s open state education superintendent seat — one of the most contentious and attention-grabbing races in Tuesday’s primaries.
There are also primaries for governor and U.S. Senate, as well as a handful of U.S. House primaries and races in which several statewide office incumbents face challengers.
If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June 28 runoff. A look at some of Tuesday’s top races:
Both parties have crowded fields after Republican Education Superintendent Molly Spearman decided not to run again after eight years in the job.
Spearman sometimes disagreed with other Republican leaders, especially on issues such as whether local districts should be able to mandate masks to protect against COVID-19. That schism has continued into the Republican primary.
Spearman endorsed Kathy Maness, who is executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association. Spearman says Maness has been a teacher and knows both the legislative process and how schools operate.
Many other Republican leaders have endorsed Ellen Weaver, the CEO of conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute and chairwoman of the state Education Oversight Committee. She also has the backing of previous state education superintendents Barbara Nielsen and Mick Zais.
Weaver has raised more than $325,000, an amount not matched by any other candidate. Travis Bedson, who owns a foundation repair company, has raised about $280,000, with most of that money coming from a $250,000 loan he made to his campaign, according to campaign finance reports. Bedson says South Carolina public schools need a business mindset to run better.
Maness has raised about $115,000.
Weaver and Bedson face another hurdle: Neither of them has the master’s degree that South Carolina law now requires of a superintendent. Maness does. Both Weaver and Bedson say they are working on the advanced degree, but election officials said there is no precedent for what happens if one of them wins in November without it.
Other Republicans running are Florence School District 1 Board Member Bryan Chapman, Greenville County School Board member Lynda Leventis-Wells and Lexington elementary school teacher Kizzi Gibson.
Competing for the Democratic nomination are state Rep. Jerry Govan, former Anderson County School District 4 Superintendent Gary Burgess and Lisa Ellis, founder of the teacher advocate group SC for Ed.