Battle for South Carolina Superintendent Office Heads to Runoff

South Carolina is heating up in an upcoming runoff for the office of state superintendent of education.

Republican Sally Atwater has recently come under fire for refusing to hold a debate with Molly Spearman, causing her critics to question her abilities, calling her “woefully unprepared for the job”.

Her use of the made-up word “flustrated” twice in a recent interview did not help her cause either.

Atwater has been consistently unclear on her beliefs with concerns to science and sex education.  She continually dodged the issue during an interview with Greenville’s WORD radio, stating she would stand by the state’s “health standards” but refused to elaborate, reports Ron Barnett for Greenville Online.

Fellow superintendent candidate Sheri Few spoke of the interview:

“Sally’s Wednesday interview with Russ Cassell on WORD Radio was an embarrassment, and it’s clear to anyone who listens to her remarks that she is woefully unprepared for the job and will clearly lose the runoff to Spearman,” Few said the next day.

The Washington Post called the interview “really awkward”.

Brian Hicks for The Post and Courier writes that Atwater sent out a “semi-apology” for the interview, stating:

“Palmetto conservatives know there will be a very real choice to be made next Tuesday, June 24th,” Atwater said in a statement. “They can vote to elect a lifelong Republican like myself with a vision to make schools safer, promote more school choice, provide more technology in the classroom, boost the number of reading coaches and simply eliminate Common Core.”

Once again, Atwater danced around the issue, still not answering the questions about sex education in the classroom.  Situations such as this are causing her peers to question her knowledge of state standards.

Atwater appears to be running largely on name recognition. She is the widow of former Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater, an adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Spearman took first place over Atwater in the June 10 primary by less than 1,000 votes. The run-off is scheduled for June 24.

On the Democratic side, candidate Sheila Gallagher is looking at discipline in schools.  She believes guidance counselors are spending too much time with testing and college admissions, and not enough time helping the average student, writes Porter Barron Jr. for The Free Times.

The main focus of Gallagher’s platform centers around the legalization of marijuana to support school funding; claiming teachers are in need of a professional compensation.

“Tell us why it’s better to put young people behind bars then in a classroom,” she said in a statement challenging Thompson to debate the issue. “Tell us why legal marijuana is any different than state sponsored gambling. Tell us why you think the people don’t deserve the right to vote and decide for themselves.”

Thompson is reported to have responded to Gallagher by saying:

“There are so many other important issues to discuss beyond just encouraging our citizens to get high in order to help fund our schools,” he said.

Thompson would like to reevaluate the state’s tax structure to see where a little more can be given to schools.

“Aren’t our children worth an additional penny?” Thompson asks.