Sheila Gallagher, Tom Thompson headed for runoff in Democratic race for schools' chief

ccope@thestate.comJune 11, 2014 

  • Democrat superintendent of education

    The unofficial results from the superintendent of education race in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

    1,927 of 2,206 precincts reporting.

    Montro Belton: 17,538

    Sheila Gallagher: 35,510

    Jerry Govan: 18,708

    Tom Thompson: 25,656

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Sheila Gallagher and Tom Thompson are headed toward a runoff in two weeks for the Democratic nomination for superintendent of education.

The winner of the June 24 election will take on the Republican nominee in November. The nominees for both parties also will run against American Party candidate Ed Murray.

Gallagher led Thompson by 10 percentage points on Tuesday.

The last statewide office held by a Democrat was when Jim Rex took the superintendent job in 2007. He held it until Republican Mick Zais was elected in 2010. Zais announced in December he would not seek a second term, and since then four Democrats and eight Republicans have been vying for their party’s nominations.

Gallagher, who is from Florence, made headlines when she called for legalizing marijuana as a way for the state to earn money to pay for schools.

“I’m open to any idea to be sure we’re fully funded,” Gallagher said Tuesday.

In the next two weeks, she said she plans to continue supporting new ideas.

“I’m not going after that same old stuff,” she said. “We’ve got to change what we’re doing.”

Thompson does not support the marijuana proposal.

“There are some things that just don’t go together, and matching up the legalization of marijuana with funding public schools for children just doesn’t go together,” he said.

Thompson, of Forest Acres, also ran for superintendent in 2010.

He said votes were harder to come by this time because three of the candidates were African-American males.

“We probably all resonated with the same demographic,” Thompson said.

Thompson is a former dean of graduate studies at South Carolina State University. He is currently the doctorate degree coordinator for Walden University.

Gallagher graduated from Winthrop University and has three master’s degrees from different schools in education fields.

She credited her success at the polls to her time as president of the S.C. Education Association. She said she spent a lot of time on the road in that position interacting with local associations and their schools. She also spent time at the State House, she said.

Candidates Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, and S.C. House Rep. Jerry Govan of Orangeburg, did not make it into the runoff.

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

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