The Buzz

January 10, 2014

ELECTION 2014: Pendleton Republican enters race for state schools' chief

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to

COLUMBIA, SC -- A Pendleton educator who ran for state schools' chief in 2010 and lost in the Republican Party primary is seeking the seat again.

Gary Burgess, 56, will announce his run for the GOP nomination for state Superintendent of Education in a public event on Martin Luther King Day.

If King were alive today, Burgess said, he would consider education a civil right.

It is "significant to send a message across the state that poor kids can learn," said Burgess, a self-described fiscal conservative who picked an historically black school to make his announcement . "All kids can learn, and poverty should not be an excuse for saying we can't educate kids."

Burgess joins two Democrats, state Rep. Mike Anthony of Union and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, in the race for the state's top education post. Zais is not seeking re-election, leaving the Republican field wide open. Others have expressed interest in the seat, including two Republican state representatives, but have not committed.

Burgess currently sits on the Anderson County school district board of trustees and was a member of state schools' chief Mick Zais' transition team after he was elected in 2010.

Burgess grew up in Inman where he attended public schools. Later, he went on to study at Wofford College, Converse College, and USC, earning master's and doctorate degrees in education.

He has worked as a superintendent, principal and teacher in S.C. public schools and as an adjunct college professor.

Burgess in 2009 was found not guilty on a charge that he "solicited an immoral act" to an officer in a park in Anderson, according to media reports. He later sued the City of Anderson. That case is pending.

Burgess also said he sued and settled two lawsuits with the state Department of Education and Hampton 2 school district for actions taken against him after the solicitation charge.

The owner of a research and education consulting business, Burgess said he decided to run for the seat after talking with Zais about the field of candidates.

Burgess came in fourth out of six candidates in the 2010 GOP primary for state education superintendent.

Burgess will announce his candidacy Jan. 20 at 11:00 a.m., at the Historic New Light Community Center, 6321 Hwy 187 in Anderson.

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