Republican candidates Sally Atwater and Molly Spearman were neck-and-neck during Tuesday’s primary and now are headed to a runoff.
Atwater, of Charleston, and Spearman, of Saluda, were separated by about one percentage point in the primary that had eight Republican candidates on the ballot.
Atwater and Spearman will face each other in two weeks to determine who will challenge the Democratic nominee.
The Democratic challenger will be either Sheila Gallagher of Florence or Tom Thompson of Forest Acres, who also face a runoff. The nominees of each party also will face American Party candidate Ed Murray in November.
Atwater, 63, is the widow of Republican operative Lee Atwater. She is a retired special needs teacher and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Winthrop University.
Atwater worked for the U.S. Department of Education during President Ronald Reagan’s administration. She also worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
After the primary on Tuesday, Atwater said she planned to call all of the other candidates and wish them well.
“I think they’ve done an outstanding job,” Atwater said. “I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Headed into a runoff, Atwater plans to talk with voters about her classroom experience and the importance of reading, she said. She said she was thrilled with how many votes she received.
Spearman, 60, is a former teacher and principal. She also is a former representative in the S.C. House, having served from 1992-1998.
Spearman currently heads the S.C. Association of School Administrators. She also had a small part in developing Gov. Nikki Haley’s education reform plan.
During the next two weeks, Spearman plans to reach out to the voters who did not vote for her the first time.
Overall, Spearman said she is excited and humbled by the results.
“Sally is a great person, and I’m thrilled to be in the running,” she said.
Sheri Few, who leads the S.C. Parents Involved in Education nonprofit, held third place by about three percentage points.