Despite initial plans to seeking a second term, S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais announced Friday that he won't enter the 2014 race.

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Zais said his family has made enormous sacrifices for the past 45 years to support his careers, and they meant more to him than "anything on this planet." They were why he decided not to seek re-election to the state's top schools post.

"This was a very difficult decision," he wrote in an online statement. "I was preparing for, and looking forward to, a re-election campaign. I'm confident I would have run a strong campaign and would have been re-elected."

The announcement came as a surprise to some because Zais repeatedly had said he planned to run for re-election. If the Republican had mounted a campaign, he likely would have faced a challenge from both Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, said he planned to decide after the holidays on whether he would seek the Republican nomination. State Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union, who is a retired teacher and coach, as well as Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, who formerly worked for the state Education Department as its director of school transformation, plan to seek the Democratic nomination.

Shortly after Zais' announcement, S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore issued a statement saying he was appreciative of Zais' service and that his leadership helped expand school choice and increase accountability.

"I am confident that a Republican will hold the office in 2015 and beyond," Moore said. "Our next Republican superintendent of education will continue Dr. Zais' legacy of leading on education reform - as it remains a top priority."

Zais was elected in 2010, and he was the second Republican ever to win election to that office. Prior to that, Zais served for 31 years in the Army, and he retired as a general. He also was president of Newberry College.