COLUMBIA, S.C. — Conservative think tank CEO Ellen Weaver has won the Republican nomination for South Carolina education superintendent.
Weaver won Tuesday night’s primary runoff contest against Kathy Maness, according to a projection by the Associated Press. The contest wasn't close, with Weaver getting over 60 percent of the vote.
Maness got the most votes two weeks ago when six candidates were running for the office, while Weaver came in second. But the third-place finisher in that contest endorsed Weaver.
There was also a large infusion of cash for ads both to Weaver’s campaign and an outside issues group that attacked Maness. One of the ads attempted to link her to Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Kamala Harris, suggesting Maness, the Palmetto State Teachers Association Executive Director, was a liberal. The commercials ran in heavy rotation since the last election results were finalized.
Maness secured one big endorsement. Republican Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, leaving the job after eight years, threw her support behind Maness, saying she has been a teacher, knows what goes on in schools and is familiar with the legislative process.
Weaver faces one hurdle thanks to a new South Carolina law requiring education superintendents to have at least a master's degree. Weaver doesn't have one but started a program in April. Election officials said there is no precedent for what happens if she wins in November without an advanced degree. Maness met the qualification.
Weaver will now face Democrat Lisa Ellis, a high school English teacher who founded the group SC for Ed on social media. Hundreds of teachers joined the group, calling for education improvements and higher pay and better treatment for teachers. The group brought 10,000 people to rally at the Statehouse, one of the biggest crowds of the past 20 years.
Ellis has raised just under $15,000, according to state campaign finance reports, but won the three-way Democratic primary without a runoff.
Patricia Mickel is running for the seat on the Green Party.