An already crowded race for education superintendent received additional attention Tuesday, when more candidates announced their interest in becoming the next top schools chief.
A Lexington attorney and campaign donor to Gov. Nikki Haley - Amy Cofield - announced her candidacy for the position on Tuesday through a written press release. And the deputy superintendent of education, Charmeka Childs, has confirmed she will announce her candidacy Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, six people had announced their candidacy, making seven if Childs' announces Wednesday. Last week, Sally Atwater - widow of well-known Republican party operative Lee Atwater - announced she too wanted to run for the seat. Republican Mick Zais, the state's current education superintendent, said in December that he would not seek re-election to the post.
The crowded race includes Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union; Democrat Montrio Belton, a former member of Zais' team as director of the Office of School Transformation; Republican Gary Burgess, a former teacher and an Anderson County school board member; and Sheri Few, a Republican activist who has rallied against Common Core standards being adopted in South Carolina. Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Beaufort, said last week he was dropping out of the race and also leaving the House, for the sake of his children, amid a contentious divorce.
"It's definitely going to be an interesting race," said Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston. "It's a chance for someone to make a big impact."
The candidates are generally touting their time in the classroom as one of several reasons why they should be elected, with the exception of Few. She said, however, that she understands teachers and parents alike because of her experience as a parent with children in the education system.
Childs, who will announce her candidacy later Wednesday, said she initially considered staying at her current job as deputy, but decided she could better serve students as superintendent. The 36-year-old holds a bachelor's degree in history and master's degree in public policy with a concentration in economics and education.
A Palmetto State native, Childs said she wants ensure South Carolina's high school students are college- and career-ready when they graduate. As an African American, Childs stands to make history if elected; no African American has won a statewide office in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
"I have a vision for what our state can do with an education system that really supports what we're trying to accomplish in economic development," she said. "It's important that we do a good job with each student."
Childs is seeking the Republican nomination, as well as Atwater and Cofield.
Atwater, a special education teacher, returned to South Carolina two years ago to teach at a rural school in Walterboro. The 62-year-old Union native said she returned to the Palmetto State to rejoin her daughters, after leaving for Washington, D.C., in the 80s with her husband. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in special education.
Now living in Charleston, Atwater said she's ready to go beyond her comfort level to ensure South Carolina's students are ready to embrace technology, which continues to make changes in the classroom on a daily basis. But it was Haley's education plan that piqued Atwater's interest in running for the seat.
"I thought it was dynamic," Atwater said of Haley's plan. "I thought: I can do this. I can push this for her. This is what south Carolina needs."
Meanwhile, Cofield said she too brings a unique experience to the race, holding a law degree and a master's degree in education.
"As a mom, I believe strongly our schools must be institutions of acceptance and challenge, so our children may reach their full God-given potential," said Cofield through the written release. "As a former public school teacher, I know our teachers must have the freedom to do what they were trained to do - educate our youth."
Like Few, Cofield is among the parents and citizens who oppose the implementation of Common Core Standards in South Carolina. Cofield, 50, touts in the release that her opposition efforts led to changes in district policies in Lexington County. She also called herself a "close friend" of Haley's.
Amy Cofield's announcement came with an endorsement by Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.
"Amy Cofield is a proven leader who has fought for our conservative values, for parents and for our kids," said Shealy, according to the release. "We need her as Superintendent of Education."
Meanwhile, just hours after Cofield's announcement, it was announced through a written release that former Gov. Jim Hodges was endorsing Anthony in the race.
"Mike Anthony has spent his life dedicated to public schools - as a classroom teacher and state champion football coach," said Hodges through the written release. "I have every reason to believe he will be that strong advocate for kids, parents and teachers we desperately need."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.