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MORNING BUZZ: Crowded SC schools chief race could get more crowded

01/27/2014 6:00 AM

02/01/2015 5:23 PM

A leading S.C. public education advocate -- with a history of sitting on both sides of the aisle -- is mulling a run S.C. schools' chief.

Molly Spearman, the executive director of the S.C. Association of School Administrators, said she is "seriously considering" running as a Republican for S.C. Superintendent of Education and has a few more pieces to put in place before making a final decision.

Spearman said she began eyeing the office after people in the education and business community started "begging me to do this...because they see the need for S.C. to come together so that we can agree on the things that will make a difference in education," she said.

S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, R-Richland, will not seek re-election, leaving the GOP field wide open.

Spearman said she saw no strong candidates entering the field.

She would join what's already the most crowded field in statewide elections this year. Six candidates have announced runs for schools chief so far and another two, in addition Spearman, are weighing their options.

Spearman's work history includes teaching in public schools, serving as a state House representative, working in the S.C. Department of Education, and lobbying on education policy.

But Spearman's political history likely will raise questions on the campaign trail.

Spearman first ran in the state House representing Saluda County in 1992 as a Democrat. In 1996, she switched parties, feeling more aligned to what she saw as a changing Republican Party, she said.

She served one term in the House GOP, and then was asked to join Democratic state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum as her governmental liaison.

In that role, Spearman "got to know and had built a great relationship with school leaders."

From there, she became the School Administrators' director.

Spearman has contributed to the campaigns of Republicans and Democrats, giving recently to state Rep. Mike Anthony, a Union Democrat and 30-year public school teacher and football coach, who was first to announce a run for the schools' chief seat.

The School Administrators association has opposed what have mostly been Republican-driven education initiatives: private-school choice and efforts to fight Common Core education standards, which outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.

But Spearman sees herself as a "unifier" in the education community.

"It's been a very demoralizing time for school leaders for the last almost ten years now. I've tried to be a listener," she said. "(Educators) see me as a trusted friend."

Who is running for superintendent?


• State Rep. Mike Anthony, a retired football coach, athletics director and teacher in the state's public schools for 30 years. Read more about Anthony.
• Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a former educator and S.C. Education Department employee under Zais. Read more about Belton.


• Gary Burgess, a trustee in the Anderson County school district and former public school educator and administrator and college instructor, who ran for state schools' chief in 2010. Read more about Burgess.
• Sheri Few, president of S.C. Parents Involved in Education, an abstinence-based sex education organization, and a leading opponent of the Common Core education standards. Few ran three times unsuccessfully for the state House. Read more about Few.
• Elizabeth Moffly, a Charleston County school board member, who ran in 2006 and 2010 for the state schools' chief seat, and ran for Congress in 2013. Read more about Moffly.
• State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Beaufort, a former U.S. Secret Service agent, law enforcement, U.S. Air National Guard veteran and 2013 congressional candidate. Details emerging about Patrick's divorce may cloud the campaign trail. Read more on why Patrick is running.

Will they join?

• Charmeka Childs, Republican Zais' deputy superintendent of school effectiveness, is mulling a run. The Duke University graduate taught in a Richland 2 public school and was Gov. Mark Sanford’s education adviser.
• State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, a former public-school teacher and the founder of a pre-school business.

Snow day = no day at the State House?

State lawmakers will be watching the weather forecast like anxious school children this week.

Forecasters are calling for snow in Columbia beginning on Tuesday afternoon and continuing into Wednesday morning.

The last time this happened that The Buzz can remember, just the threat of snow was enough for state lawmakers to cancel everything.

Not even the late great AP State House reporter Jim Davenport could find stories on that day. He wandered around the Gressette building with a young intern in tow, but lawmakers were nowhere to be found.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

• 10:30 a.m.: Visits Hartsville Middle School in Hartsville (Note: In Darlington County, which Haley lost in the 2010 election to Democrat Vincent Sheheen, her 2014 opponent.)

State House today

A couple of meetings of the Education Oversight Committee :

• 10 a.m.: Joint Meeting of the Education Oversight Committee's Public Awareness and Special Reading Subcommittees (Blatt Room 433 / Agenda
• 2 p.m.: Education Oversight Committee Academic Standards and Assessments Subcommittee (Blatt Room 433 / Agenda

Happening today

• S.C. Department of Health and Human Services will demonstrate for the media the agency's new website that allows patients to see financial and operational trends at hospitals statewide.
• Richland County Councilman Greg Pearce is expected to announce formally his re-election bid during the Richland County Republican party's monthly meeting at Doc's BBQ Conference Center.

Career ending duel in the lobby

Nothing quite like seeing the candidates for the state's top judicial job hang out in the State House lobby with lobbyists, journalists and tour groups and ask for votes for the $148,350 post.

The State's John Monk reports on the latest in the race between S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal and Associate Justice Costa Pleicones, which he described as "a combination of poker, chicken and blind man’s bluff:"

It’s historic – not within memory has a sitting chief justice been challenged by an associate justice. Not within memory has a chief justice, like Toal, refused to step aside when approaching the traditional retirement age of 72 and let the next most-senior justice on the five-person court assume the top spot. It’s also historic because Toal is the court’s first female justice, serving as chief since 2000.

The prize in this Game of Thrones? The pledges of support from the 170 members of the House and Senate. Under the state Constitution, lawmakers elect Supreme Court justices and other state judges. The joint-session vote is Feb. 5.

Scott again dismisses 'dummy' comment

Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in Congress, again dismissed a prominent NAACP leader's criticism of him as a GOP stooge, according to a report from McClatchy Washington bureau reporter James Rosen.

Reporters asked Scott on Friday after the first-term senator from North Charleston delivered the keynote luncheon at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Washington, D.C., about comments from the Rev. William Barber II, head of the NAACP's North Carolina office.

Barber likened Scott to a ventriloquist's dummy for the tea party.

"There just is no response to baseless, rhetorical comments by someone who's never met me," Scott said.

Scott added: "There really isn't a response to it. It would be different if I knew him and he knew me, but what do you say to a guy who doesn't know you at all?"

Buzz Clicks

Carroll Campbell as the Ronald Reagan of SC:: Passage of a government restructuring bill last week brought out nostalgia about Carroll Campbell, a Republican whose administration is recalled for its economic focus. The late former governor, last in office 19 years ago, even drew comparisons to former president Ronald Reagan. Full story

A lot (of $$$) in the Columbia pipeline:: Many Columbia residents and City Hall leaders are wringing their hands over debt the city is facing because of a list of big-ticket projects that could approach $1 billion over the next decade. Full story

S.C. stays ahead in the line: South Carolina will keep its first-in-the-south Republican presidential primary. The Republican National Committee voted Friday to allow four states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- to hold presidential primaries in February 2016. Full story

SC's nuclear job market heats up: A bright new posse of nuclear professionals fresh on the scene in the Palmetto State is ready to help design and shape the next generation of nuclear energy production. V.C. Summer – SCE&G’s only nuclear energy production site in the state – is in the midst of a massive, multibillion-dollar expansion that has garnered major national attention. Full story

Pharma plant opening soon: Nephron Pharmaceuticals officials are eager to start producing medicine soon after moving into their new $313 million facility near Cayce in early spring. Full story

Throwing spuds in farm fight: To neighbors worried about the Edisto River’s South Fork, a farm-industry online campaign calling them "radical environments" is both amusing and infuriating. Many are conservative, lifelong residents of the Edisto River basin who contend they’re just trying to protect the narrow South Fork from a large potato farm’s irrigation plan. Full story

Round 2 for Robert Ford: The Senate Ethics Committee has filed another complaint against former state Sen. Robert Ford, a Charleston Democrat who resigned in May after he was accused of misusing campaign money. Full story

Charlotte takes pass on RNC '16: A month before bids are due, the city of Charlotte announced it will not try to land the 2016 Republican National Convention. The city was considered a successful host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which was estimated to generate an economic impact of roughly $164 million for the region. But there was little enthusiasm for trying to land another political convention so soon. Full story

Penny for your thoughts? Perhaps not: Doesn't sound good for the role of a citizen watchdog committee appointed to help pick Richland County road projects with a penny-sales tax increase. Full story

Rev. Scott, preach on: Watch U.S. Sen. Tim Scott channel his inner preacher when a sign fell while speaking at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Full story

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A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to Follow The Buzz @buzzatthestate. Follow Cassie @cassielcope. Follow Jamie @jamiemself. Follow Andy @andyshain.

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