Spearman beats other education superintendent candidates in fund raising

04/11/2014 10:49 PM

04/12/2014 8:31 AM

Molly Spearman is leading the money race among eight Republicans trying to become South Carolina’s next schools superintendent, while Montrio Belton of Fort Mill leads the four Democrats seeking the job.

First-quarter campaign disclosures filed Thursday show Spearman had nearly $67,500 available as of March 31. The director of the state Association of School Administrators has almost $9,000 more available than Sally Atwater, widow of the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater. Atwater’s money includes a $47,500 loan to herself.

Almost 90 percent of Spearman’s $90,500 raised in the quarter came from South Carolinians, while almost 90 percent of Atwater’s $39,000 came from out-of-state donors.

“We’re not resting on any laurels. This is wonderful but there is a long way to go yet,” Spearman told The Associated Press.

Spearman said the small in-state donations that make up most of her contributions are indicative of the level of support she has across South Carolina.

Atwater spokesman Luke Byars said the campaign is pleased with the quarter and that fundraising has shown only a few have been able to raise competitive amounts of money so far.

“There are obviously a couple of front-runners that have come out of the pack and we’re happy to be considered in that front couple of folks,” Byars said.

Most of Atwater’s donations this quarter came from a fundraiser in Alexandra, Va. Byars said donors represented the “who’s who of Republican politics.” The fundraiser last month followed the endorsement of her late husband’s boss, former President George H.W. Bush.

Byars said Atwater will now concentrate on campaigning in South Carolina.

Coming in third among Republicans is anti-Common Core activist Sheri Few with $24,000 available, followed by attorney Amy Cofield with $23,000.

Former deputy superintendent Meka Childs has more than $12,000 available. Her former boss, outgoing Superintendent Mick Zais, endorsed her as his replacement last month.

Childs’ spokesman R.J. May said the campaign is not dismayed by the numbers and that Childs will continue to travel across the state to talk with parents and other South Carolina voters.

“There are some of these candidates who have made a career out of being a candidate and holding political office. Naturally they have special-interest ties and contacts that first-time candidates like Meka don’t have,” May said. “So it’s no surprise that they would start in the lead of the pack in fundraising.”

Republican Elizabeth Moffly had almost $3,000, Gary Burgess had $2,000 and Don Jordan had $700.

Belton, Zais’ former director of school transformation, leads Democrats with more than $29,000 available. Former South Carolina State University Dean Tom Thompson reported in his initial disclosure that he paid the $3,680 filing fee himself.

Democrats Sheila Gallagher and state Rep. Jerry Govan had not filed disclosures as of Friday. Under state law, candidates must file an initial disclosure within 10 days of raising $500.

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