A history professor and a man with a history in state legislation helped Montrio Belton declare for the state House on Wednesday.
Belton earned support from his old college teacher, Jason Silverman, as well as Sam Foster, a retired educator and former state representative. Foster, 75, once held the District 49 seat and is widely revered in Rock Hill political circles.
The two joined Belton for an afternoon ceremony outside City Hall, where the candidate told listeners his background in education makes him the best choice to succeed Bessie Moody-Lawrence in District 49, which includes parts of York and much of southern York County.
"Having served 12 years there (in the Legislature), I'm looking for someone who has integrity, who has the intellect to learn the system, the interest and the desire to serve the people honorably," Foster said.
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Belton, principal of Monroe Middle School in Monroe, N.C., faces John King, a funeral home director and former Chester County Council member, in the Democratic primary June 10. King has earned backing from a number of black lawmakers in Columbia, including Joe Neal, Todd Rutherford and Leon Howard.
Shortly after Belton's announcement, King unveiled a local campaign steering committee that includes the Rev. Walter White, the Rev. Anthony Johnson, Bishop B.R. Wilson and businessman Melvin Poole.
"I'm also an educator," said King, who works as an adjunct professor in the workforce development program at York Technical College. "Yes, it's very important, but to be a state representative, you have to have other issues. I'm a well-rounded candidate."
King mentioned payday lending and health care as other issues relevant to District 49. The winner of the Democratic primary will take on Republican Marvin Rogers in November.
During his announcement, Belton talked about being born to a 16-year-old unwed mother and an alcoholic father in Abbeville, one of the poorest parts of South Carolina.
"I am an unlikely candidate," he said. "I was not born into a family of status or privilege. I stand here today not for self-promotion or to seek a lifelong ambition."
Belton earned a degree at Winthrop University, where he took classes with Silverman, a Rock Hill school board member.
"We have all the wrong people in this state making decisions about education," said Silverman, displaying his trademark penchant for high-flying rhetoric. "They couldn't find a classroom with a road map. Montrio will go to Columbia as an educator."
If elected, Belton said he would resign as principal of Monroe Middle School.