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ELECTION 2014: UPDATED -- Spearman becomes tenth candidate for schools chief

02/24/2014 3:36 PM

02/01/2015 5:23 PM

Note: This is an update to a story that ran on Monday's Morning Buzz.

Molly Spearman, executive director of the S.C. Association of School Administrators, officially joined the race for state Superintendent of Education today.

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

The Saluda resident said she decided to run after business and education leaders encouraged her.

Spearman said she is "uniquely qualified" to help Gov. Nikki Haley, who has said she would not endorse a candidate in the race, in carrying out an education funding-reform plan the governor introduced in her budget proposal this year.

Spearman said she worked with Haley over the past year to bring "talented educators to the table and develop a blueprint" for that proposal. "She understands, as I do, that our graduates need to be prepared for a successful career, not just a job," Spearman 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.

Republican Superintendent of Education Mick Zais is not running for re-election, leaving the seat wide open and attracting a lot of candidates.

She said her experience working with educators as director of the S.C. Association of School Administrators and, previously, as a teacher, state House representative, and deputy superintendent under Democratic state schools' chief Inez Tenenbaum, qualify her for the position.

Spearman first ran in the state House representing Saluda County in 1992 as a Democrat. In 1995, 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.

"No other candidate has the in-depth experience that I have, or the relationships that I have," she said. "I know me, and I know I'm prepared to do this job."

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.

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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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