MORNING BUZZ: Gay-rights activists go "Southern," and one more for SC ed chief

Posted by JAMIE SELF and ANDREW SHAIN on February 24, 2014 

A screenshot from the Tumblr blog, Homo Sweet Homo, created in reaction to a state House budget panel voting to cut $70,000 from two state schools over having students read gay-themed books.

Two gay-rights advocacy groups -- one armed with social media and the other with money -- have found cause for campaigns in the Palmetto State.

Charleston members of Southerners on New Ground, a social justice group consisting mostly of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, launched a Tumblr blog called "Homo Sweet Homo" last week.

The blog shows pictures of people holding signs meant to "shame" state Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, and a House higher-education budget panel for voting to cut $70,000 to the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate for having freshmen read gay-themed books.

Someone posted a petition to the blog urging lawmakers to rethink the funding cuts.

But while the activists are relying on social media to spread their message, Southerners for the Freedom to Marry -- co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia -- is about to dump $1 million into a southern television ad campaign starting Monday.

The campaign's aim is to attract public support for same-sex marriage as several court challenges to states' gay-marriage bans advance. Those cases include one in Columbia. S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson are fighting the lawsuit.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

Haley will visit President Barack Obama with fellow governors at 10 a.m. at The White House. She will participate in a 1:15 p.m. Republicans Governors Association news conference with Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (the group's vice chairman), Bill Haslam, Tennessee and Rick Perry of Texas. Jindal, who is leading the group with chairman Chris Christie back in New Jersey, is expected to ask the president at The White House meeting to use his executive authority to ease regulations that could create jobs.

Gov.Nikki Haley and her husband, Michael, head to a White House dinner on Sunday night.

Spearman's in and that makes 10

Molly Spearman, executive director of the S.C. Association of School Administrators, officially will jump in the race for state Superintendent of Education today, she told The Buzz.

And Spearman will bring with her about $30,000 in contributions she's raised quietly before making her bid public for the GOP nomination, she said.

Spearman's entry in the race widens the field to ten candidates seeking the seat, eight Republicans and two Democrats. Republican state schools' chief Mick Zais is not running for re-election.

Why is the race so popular?

One reason: it's wide open with no clear front-runner yet, said Joel Sawyer, a Push Digital political strategist and former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford.

"As much as I'd love to believe it has something to do with education...people get into races that they think they can win," he said.

Other Republicans running are Sally Atwater, former school teacher and widow to GOP operative Lee Atwater; Gary Burgess, Anderson County Board of Education member; Meka Childs, former S.C. Department of Education deputy superintendent; Amy Cofield, a Lexington attorney; Sheri Few, a Lugoff Republican activist; Don Jordan, a University of South Carolina math and science professor; and Elizabeth Moffly, a Charleston County School Board member.

State Rep. Mike Anthony, a retired coach and teacher from Union, and Montrio Belton, a former public school principal and teacher, are running as Democrats.

State House Meetings

9 a.m.: Joint Legislative Committee to Screen Candidates for College and University Boards of Trustees (Gressette Room 209, Agenda)

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