Editorial: Spearman for SC education superintendent, McMaster for lieutenant governor in Republican runoff

June 20, 2014 

— WE WERE delighted to see Molly Spearman and Henry McMaster finish in first place in their campaigns for the Republican nominations for state superintendent of education and lieutenant governor. Apparently, a lot of voters saw the same valuable leadership abilities in them that we did.

But they both still have to win Tuesday’s runoff election before they can advance to the November contests. So it’s important for everyone who supported Ms. Spearman and Mr. McMaster in the June 10 primary to go back to the polls Tuesday to get them over the hump. And for all those voters who supported losing candidates in the primary — or who didn’t vote June 10 — it’s time to take a close look at them. Do that, and it’s hard to conclude that there are better choices still on the ballot.

Ms. Spearman, a former classroom teacher who has served as a legislator, a top state Education Department official and director of the state’s school administrators’ association, is one of the visionaries working on a business-backed plan to transform our 19th century model of education to meet our 21st century needs. The idea is to overhaul how we teach children — focusing on subject mastery rather than seat time, and tailoring teaching to meet each child’s individual needs — and what we teach them, with an emphasis on the critical-thinking skills that are essential for competing in today’s world. It’s a whole new way of thinking about education, and while our legislators seem receptive to it, it’s hard to understate how valuable it would be to have one of its primary advocates serving as education superintendent.

She supports the smartest reforms from across the political system, from giving parents more choices within the public school system to helping ensure that we have better principals, and that they can act effectively. And unlike her opponent in the runoff, she recognizes that the governor needs to appoint the education superintendent.

While her opponent is an earnest and engaging candidate, she simply doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge and experience with education policy that Ms. Spearman does. She doesn’t have the depth of relationships with the legislators who decide the rules under which our schools operate and the district and school officials who implement those rules. She doesn’t have the managerial experience necessary to oversee such a huge bureaucracy.

Of course, few people do, which is part of what makes Ms. Spearman such an attractive candidate: She’s someone who sees where we need to transform public education and where we need to tweak it, and she has the ability to turn that knowledge into a plan and build the public support to make it happen.

The job of lieutenant governor is far less important than the job of education superintendent — as long as nothing happens to the governor. But if she isn’t able to complete her term, this becomes one of the most important jobs in the state. So it’s our duty to elect someone how is qualified to be governor. Mr. McMaster was the only one of the four Republican candidates who could make the claim, and he’s the only one of the two remaining who can make that claim.

In eight years as attorney general, Mr. McMaster proved himself to be courageous, dependable and trustworthy — and frankly, it’s difficult to think of more important character traits for someone who would be governor. As for abilities, he developed a solid record of bringing people together to work collaboratively toward creative solutions to difficult problems and working well with the Legislature — essential skills for accomplishing anything in this state.

At the request of Gov. Nikki Haley, Mr. McMaster spent the past two years working tirelessly to develop and advocate the blueprint for ethics reform that drew praise from anyone who is serious about improving our government. That’s the epitome of public service: work that’s not making him any friends but eventually could give our state a much healthier political climate.

If you’re looking for someone who is true to Republican Party values — and we’re not, but we recognize that a lot of primary voters are — it’s difficult to see how there would even be a contest. Mr. McMaster‘s opponent in the runoff can say anything he wants about his values; Mr. McMaster has a track record of action, most importantly as our state’s attorney general but also as state GOP chairman for a decade.

Indeed, Mr. McMaster’s long engagement in public life means we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from him, and what we know as a result makes him the clear choice in this race.

You can read the candidates’

responses to our questionnaire

at www.thestate.com/1107.

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