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Obstacles remain for State Superintendent of Education hopefuls

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – The stage is set for the State Superintendent of Education race in November’s general election. Republican Ellen Weaver won the Republican runoff Tuesday night, and will face Democrat Lisa Ellis.

Weaver, however, does not meet a requirement recently put in place: holding a masters degree in education. Weaver was among several candidates without one entering the primary election and is currently working to get her degree through a fast-track program.

If elected, and unable to get her degree in time, it could trigger a new election in the race for Superintendent of Education. Experts say it’s something that’s never been seen before.

The master’s degree requirement took effect after the 2018 election cycle. Several candidates didn’t have a degree entering the election, Brisini calls the situation unique.

“The parties are supposed to certify the candidates meaning that these are the representatives that are qualified and clearly in Ellen Weaver’s case, that is not the case,” says Political Analyst John Brisini.

Confusion over the requirement has led to false rumors the degree is needed on election day. Instead, Weaver would have until January to secure the degree.

“The code is very clear that the Superintendent must possess […] that master’s degree on Inaugural Day,” says Kevin Hall, Attorney with Womble, Bond, Dickinson Law Firm.

If she doesn’t have it by then, the election process starts over.

“It would be a new process with primaries for both parties and a special election to elect a Superintendent of Education so in every instance it would go back to the voters,” says Hall.

Brisini says waiting to see if Weaver will meet the qualification raises several questions about the new requirement and process to win the seat, including who should be responsible for the building costs related to a special election.

“That starts to raise some larger concerns: number one how did we even get to this point,” asks Brisini. “And most important, who now pays for a special election?”

If Weaver doesn’t make the deadline, Brisini says talks to make the position a Governor’s Cabinet position could be renewed to resolve some of the concerns.

“That the issues begin to boil up and be a little larger here than simply just what the statue requires,” says Brisini. “But, nonetheless this is going to be an interesting November.”

News 2 reached out to Weaver’s campaign for an interview but she wasn’t available on Wednesday. Weaver will face off against Democrat Lisa Ellis in November’s general election to be South Carolina’s next Superintendent of Education.