Molly Spearman will head S.C. public schools after defeating Democratic candidate Tom Thompson on Tuesday by a wide margin.
Spearman, of Saluda, has led a school administrators’ association for nearly a decade and has experience as a public school music teacher, assistant principal and lawmaker.
“I am going to be working and listening to parents, teachers, students, educators and bringing all of them together to try and make our schools in South Carolina even better,” Spearman said after she won Tuesday.
In other constitutional office races:
• Attorney General Alan Wilson, son of U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson, beat Democrat Parnell Diggs, a blind Grand Strand lawyer.
• Republican Mark Hammond of Spartanburg won his fourth term, beating Democrat Ginny Deerin of Sullivan’s Island who had the backing of many Republicans, including Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of Congressman and former Gov. Mark Sanford.
• Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom defeated Democrat Kyle Herbert. Eckstrom originally was elected comptroller in 2002 and had previously served as state treasurer from 1994-98.
• Republican Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers also won re-election, handily defeating two third-party candidates.
Spearman was elected to the S.C. House as a Democrat in 1992, switching to the Republican Party in 1995.
She then worked as deputy superintendent of governmental relations under former Democratic state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum. Spearman likely will provide a different approach to leading S.C. schools than her predecessor, Mick Zais.
Zais, who decided not to run for re-election, was an advocate of grading teachers based on student test scores and expanding school choice. He also was criticized as an antagonistic leader who did not get along with some education groups.
Spearman emerged as the Republican Party’s nominee in June after an eight-candidate primary and runoff with Sally Atwater, widow of GOP operative Lee Atwater.
Spearman also beat third-party candidate Ed Murray, who was on the ballot as a member of the newly formed American Party, co-founded by former Democratic state school’s chief Jim Rex.