State Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union, ended his bid for state schools chief Wednesday, leaving only one Democrat in the race.
In a statement, Anthony said the statewide campaign was taking too much time away from his family, and he felt he could do more to help public education by keeping a seat in the House, where he sits on the budget committee that oversees K-12 spending.
The retired public-school teacher and coach said he would seek a seventh term to the House, where he represents District 42 in Spartanburg and Union counties.
“I remain committed to our schools, and if re-elected to the state House, I will use my position to strongly advocate for a substantial increase in school funding so we can pay our teachers what they deserve and allow every student an opportunity to prosper,” Anthony said.
Republican Mick Zais, currently in his first term as state superintendent of education, is not running for re-election.
Anthony was the first candidate to announce last year that he would run for the state’s top education post, the last statewide office held by Democrats. He ended 2013 with $44,000 to spend in the race.
With the permission of his supporters, Anthony could transfer some of that money to his House campaign or he could give it back, he said.
Anthony’s exit leaves Montrio Belton, a former principal and teacher from Fort Mill, as the only Democrat in race. Belton also worked a year in the state Education Department’s office of school transformation.
Jaime Harrison, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, said he was not sure if any other Democrats are interested in running for the education post.
“Montrio Belton is very accomplished, very smart,” Harrison added. “If he’s our candidate, I think we will be very well served by him.”
Eight Republicans have announced they are running: Sally Atwater, a former Colleton County teacher and widow of GOP operative Lee Atwater; Gary Burgess, Anderson County Board of Education member; Meka Childs of Columbia, former S.C. Education Department deputy superintendent; Amy Cofield, a Lexington attorney; Sheri Few, a Lugoff Republican activist; Don Jordan of Columbia, a University of South Carolina professor; Elizabeth Moffly, a Charleston County School Board member; and Molly Spearman, executive director of the S.C. Association of School Administrators.