State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has had a disappointing campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor so far. The only elected statewide Democratic official, Rex enjoys the highest name identification of any Democratic candidate. Yet, despite that fact, Rex faces money troubles and history.
First, there are the money problems. There are two that come to mind. First, is the dismal campaign fundraising by Rex. Even if Rex makes a runoff against State Senator Vincent Sheheen, Rex will go into that runoff without the resources needed to win.
Yet, Rex did win statewide office four years ago below the political radar and spending less money than his opponent. The second money problem Rex has will hurt him repeat the performance. Four years ago, Rex had a network of teachers and school officials that were enthusiastic about his candidacy and they worked to turn out their families and friends to vote for Rex. Much like retiring Adjutant General Spears had unofficial campaign headquarters at every National Guard Armory because of the Guard’s support of him, Rex had unofficial headquarters at most public schools four years ago.
That support is unlikely to be as strong because of the lack of money in the state budget and the overall loss of morale among the ranks of teachers. Frankly, it is hard to find an educator who is happier with the state of affairs of education now than they were four years ago. It has to be difficult for the same group to be excited about Rex after four years of seeing teachers and rank and file staff furloughed and laid off while the fat cats at the Department of Education kept their jobs.
Then, there is history according to the biographies of Superintendants from the South Carolina Department of Education website. Only one Superintendant of Education has ever been elected Governor of South Carolina. That happened 128 years ago in 1882, when outgoing Superintendant of Education Hugh S. Thompson was elected Governor. The only other Superintendant of Education to go on to another elected office was John J. McMahan, who served as Superintendant from 1898 until 1902. McMahan went on to be elected to the South Carolina House twice, in 1908 and 1914 respectively. Thus, it has been 96 years since a South Carolina Superintendant of Education was elected to anything else.