COLUMBIA, S.C. - The race to be South Carolina's next schools superintendent is already this year's most contested election for statewide office, and the filing period is still more than six weeks away.

GOP Superintendent Mick Zais' announcement last month that he won't seek a second term left the field wide open.

Democratic state Rep. Michael Anthony of Union leads the money race, with $43,500 cash available as of Dec. 31. Anthony's Democratic opponent is Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, Zais' former director of school transformation.

Those who have announced on the Republican side are GOP activist Sheri Few of Lugoff and Anderson County school board member Gary Burgess.

One Republican exited the race last week, but several more say they're either planning to run or are considering it.