COLUMBIA (AP) — Molly Spearman is the Republican choice to be South Carolina education superintendent and Tom Thompson is the Democratic nominee after Tuesday night’s primary runoff.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Spearman led Sally Atwater with 57 percent of the vote, and with over 80 percent of precincts reporting, Thompson led Sheila Gallagher with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Spearman, the director of the state Association of School Administrators, spent the last decade advocating for the state’s 3,600 K-12 administrators, but her career began in the classroom, as a music teacher for 18 years, then two years as an assistant principal. Her other roles include legislator, deputy superintendent and chief of staff at the state education agency.
Spearman had a slight lead over Atwater in the eight-way primary two weeks ago, but Atwater’s interview with a conservative Greenville radio station dealt a blow to her runoff campaign. It was the first run for elected office for the widow of GOP strategist Lee Atwater.
Thompson, the former dean of graduate studies at South Carolina State University, placed second in a four-way primary. Gallagher had attracted attention by advocating legalizing and taxing marijuana to raise money for schools, but Thompson called it absurd to link buying marijuana to quality education.
The Chicago native started his career in 1970 as an inner-city high school math teacher. Thompson came to South Carolina in 1982 from Wisconsin to be the first black principal of Winnsboro High School in Fairfield County.
Thompson ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent in 2010.