COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Palmetto State Teachers Association Executive Director Kathy Maness and conservative think tank CEO Ellen Weaver made the runoff Tuesday for South Carolina’s open state education superintendent seat.
The Democratic nominee was still up for grabs in one of the most contentious and attention-grabbing races in Tuesday’s primaries.
There were also primaries for governor and U.S. Senate, as well as a handful of U.S. House primaries and races in which several statewide office incumbents faced challengers.
If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June 28 runoff. A look at some of Tuesday’s top races:
Both parties have crowded fields after Republican Education Superintendent Molly Spearman decided not to run again after eight years in the job.
Spearman sometimes disagreed with other Republican leaders, especially on issues such as whether local districts should be able to mandate masks to protect against COVID-19. That schism has continued into the Republican primary.
Spearman endorsed Maness, noting that she has been a teacher and knows both the legislative process and how schools operate.
Many other Republican leaders have endorsed Weaver, the CEO of conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute and chairwoman of the state Education Oversight Committee. She also has the backing of previous state education superintendents Barbara Nielsen and Mick Zais.
Weaver has raised more than $325,000, an amount not matched by any other candidate. Maness has raised about $115,000.
Maness had a clear lead in Tuesday’s vote, but fell far short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.
If Weaver wins the nomination, she could face another hurdle: She does not have the master’s degree that South Carolina law now requires of a superintendent. Maness does.
Weaver said she started working on the advanced degree in April, but election officials said there is no precedent for what happens if she wins in November without it.
For the Democrats, Lisa Ellis, founder of the teacher advocate group SC for Ed, had a clear lead in Tuesday’s vote, but it was too early to say if she could avoid a runoff. The other candidates are former Anderson County School District 4 Superintendent Gary Burgess and state Rep. Jerry Govan.
In the 4th District, Republican U.S. Rep. William Timmons defeated three challengers. Timmons is among the Republican congressmen who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results for Joe Biden and he has received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. But his opponents contended he was not conservative enough.
Trump chose Timmons over Mark Burns, a pastor who spent two years going to rallies to speak on Trump’s behalf.
The lone Democrat in the race is Ken Hill, a nuclear power plant quality control inspector for the congressional district, which is anchored by Greenville and Spartanburg.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democrat in Congress, beat two challengers as he seeks a 16th term in the 6th District, the state’s only majority minority district, which extends from Columbia to Charleston.
Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden was widely seen as the defining factor that led to the current president’s victory in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Clyburn will face Republican attorney Duke Buckner in November.
In the 5th District, which runs from Rock Hill to Sumter, Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman has no challengers in the primary. In November, he’ll face real estate agent Evangeline Hundley. Norman has been in Congress since 2017.
In the 2nd District, which includes the western suburbs of Columbia and Aiken, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson has no primary opposition for the seat he has represented since 2001. His Democratic opponent in November is Judd Larkins, who describes himself on his campaign website as a “husband, a dog dad, a business owner, a college football enthusiast and a South Carolina native.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan is unopposed in the primary and general election as he seeks a seventh term in the 3rd District, which covers the northwest part of South Carolina.
Attorney General Alan Wilson has likely won a fourth term in office after defeating attorney Lauren Martel in the Republican primary. No Democrats have entered the race. Martel had said Wilson does more talking than fighting for conservative positions such as protecting Confederate monuments or fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Secretary of State Mark Hammond won the Republican primary by defeating Keith Blanford, who wanted to take the role of overseeing elections away from a board appointed by the governor and give it to the Secretary of State’s Office.
A bill that would make that transition was proposed in the General Assembly this year but never got a hearing. The Republican-dominated Legislature did overhaul election laws to allow early voting.
Hammond faces Democrat Rosemounda Peggy Butler in the fall.
Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers defeated two opponents for the Republican nomination: Spartanburg County Soil and Water Commissioner Bill Bledsole and Bob Rozier, who works in the farming industry.
Weathers will face David Edmond of the Green Party and Chris Nelums of the United Citizens Party as well as Bledsoe, who also filed to run in the general election under the Constitutional Party. This is the last year that state law allows candidates to run for more than one party.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.