My Thoughts on the Upcoming Elections

You're not supposed to talk about religion and politics with your friends, right? Well, I've already violated the former. And the latter. So we'll just keep going.

(Or maybe you're not my friends. That's OK, too.)

A few local and statewide elections interest me this year, and we will vote on June 10 for:
  • Republican Primary for US Senate seat 
  • Allendale County Probate Judge 
  • Superintendent of Education for South Carolina  

I am thankful for the opportunity to vote, and I think we all have the right, privilege, and duty to do so.

My Checklist  

Here's a disclaimer: in my life, I have mostly supported Republican candidates, but I have voted for Democrats, Independents, and an occasional "minor" party candidate. I have never voted for anyone whom I agreed with 100%. I doubt if any of us have.

So over the years, I have compiled a two basic principles that help me rule out some of the field:
  1. I will not vote for a candidate who is unrepentant in major morally-bankrupt behavior which has hurt or defrauded others. Now, I realize that this can be subjective. After all, we are all sinners and no one is even close to perfect. And some may say that one's personal life is separate from one's professional life. However, if someone hurts or lies to those who are close to him (or her), how can I trust him (or her) to be honest with people that he isn't close to? 
  2. I will not vote for a candidate who is unwilling to compromise and work with his political opponents. If we draw hard lines, how can we expect to move forward. How many organizations succeed with a bunch of my-way-or-no-way mentalities?

Of course, I look at other qualifications such as experience, the ability to communicate well, how they prioritize issues, and their proven accomplishments. But look at these on a spectrum to help me narrow down whom I will support.

The State of Politics and Education   

Of all the upcoming elections, the one that interests me the most is for the Superintendent of Education. Through our work in Allendale, we have become more knowledgeable and passionate about the education of children (beyond those in our own home).

And because of this knowledge (however miniscule it may be) and passion (however annoying it may be), friends have asked me about who I like, and I have gotten their insight, too.

If you don't know (for shame!) who the candidates are, you can see a quick rundown from The State Newspaper or Public Education Partners. And because I care about education, and because you should, too, I want to start (continue) the dialogue to helping us all figure out who is the best candidate.

After I give my thoughts, I hope you'll share your input and insight.

My Picks for the SC Superintendent of Education

I have talked to some friends. I have sent emails to candidates (and received only 1 reply). I have watched the debates of the Democratic and Republican candidates. And here's where I've landed.

My Favorites

I have two favorites, one from either party:
  • Montrio Belton (Democrat).  I heard him speak in Allendale a couple of years ago, when he lead the Department of Education Office of Transformation. I liked his upfront and honest assessment, telling the leaders here that if they didn't better steward their finances, the state would cut off part of their funding. (Which began the process of Allendale consolidating school buildings.) Also, he comes from a background of poverty, so understands the challenges there. Furthermore he is a supporter of school choice. 
  • Molly Spearman (Republican).  She has great experience, and the support of many teachers I know and respect. She is very pro-public schools. My biggest concern is her idea that the state needs to keep more strict tabs on homeschoolers, including keeps a record of social security numbers. However, I'm not sure that she could get that passed in this state. Still a concern, though.

That's right. My top two picks are from opposite political parties. The Democrat has some conservative leanings, and the Republican has some liberal leanings.

That's perfect, since what's in the best interest of children does not fall along political lines.

The Second Tier

Besides Belton and Spearman, I like a lot about the following candidates:
  • Gary Burgess (Republican).  Seems solid. But I'm not sure how he would fulfill his promise to "close the achievement gap within 100 days of attaining office." He was the only candidate to respond to my email. Score!
  • Meka Childs (Republican).  A supporter of school choice. But she wants to continue many of the policies of the current Superintendent, of whom I disapprove strongly.
  • Don Jordan (Republican).  Very smart. But seems to be more focused on college than on K-12.
  • Tom Thompson (Democrat).  Also seems pretty solid. But I don't like that he disapproves of school choice.

What the What?!

I can't believe these two are even considered:
  • Sheri Few (Republican).  Her platform has one issue: Common Core. She has no background in education whatsoever. In fact, she has no degree beyond high school. With so little experience, is this the type of person we want to run the state education system?  Also, I find it distasteful (and arrogant) that she blames the school system for her son "walking away from faith."
    • PS: I will write again on Common Core at some point. But I'll say this for now. . . . The fact that half of the Republican candidates make this their primary platform allows me to write them off immediately.
    • PPS: Here is the post I promised, Common Core Is NOT the Common Problem.   
  • Sheila Gallagher (Democrat).  She wants to legalize marijuana to help pay for education in South Carolina. Already Colorado has been seeing some unexpected consequences of legalizing this drug. But a better argument was provided by one of the other Democratic candidates (Belton, I think) in the debate:
"So you're telling me that my grown son smokes three joints, and the schools get money for that. And then the next year, he decides to cut back to just one joint, that the schools should lose money?"

So there you have it, my completely unsolicited (and very strong) opinions. I hope we can still be friends.

But I'd love to hear from you, too.Help me and others be a better-informed voter. Who do you like in this race, and why?

Share your thoughts in the comments, or send me a message another way. (I know the comment system on Blogspot isn't great.)

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**image courtesy of OpenClips via pixabay

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