Smith-James 08

Rep. James Smith 

Democratic 2018 gubernatorial candidate James Smith on Wednesday snagged his 24th endorsement this week — and it's a big one.

Dick Riley, former South Carolina governor and U.S. education secretary, announced his support for the state lawmaker at the Greenville Democratic Party office.

As a two-term governor, Riley made education a key part of his tenure from 1979-87. He also served as education secretary under President Bill Clinton.

In his prepared remarks, Riley touted Smith as an "education governor" for South Carolina.

"James Smith has been a tireless advocate for our state's children and schools, even though he has been in the minority in the Legislature. As governor, he will be in a better position to be the change agent we need — with new ideas and new solutions — to move our state forward," Riley said.

Smith faces Charleston businessman Phil Noble in the Democratic primary.

The crowded Republican field of candidates includes former state health department director Catherine Templeton, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, current Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.