2 of 4 Dem superintendent candidates debate at ILA Hall

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- With the June primaries just a couple weeks away, two of the four Democrats vying for the state superintendent's seat faced off in their first and only Lowcountry debate.

Curious voters at Tuesday night's debate for candidates running for superintendent of education listened, took notes, and asked questions. They want to know who has the right ideas to improve schools.

"We believe we have the best candidates and the candidates who really represent what mainstream South Carolina voters care about, particularly in education," said Kaye Koonce, first vice chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Dr. Tom Thompson supports Common Core standards, believes more money is needed for schools, and is against school vouchers.

"A positive, productive relationship between the department of education and the local school districts is key to being able to address the problems in our system, as a system, as a team," said Dr. Thompson.

Dr. Montrio Belton also believes in Common Core, but he says pumping more money into schools won't solve every problem and he wants to focus on early childhood education.

"I am the one who brings real, practical solutions to some of the challenges we face in education. But also my experiences can accentuate many of the wonderful things that we have going on across the state in education," said Dr. Belton.

Both candidates know their party hasn't won a statewide election in several years, and they think Democrats can change that with this race.

"We've had evidence that it's possible with Inez Tenenbaum and Jim Rex in the position. Unfortunately, we lost it last race but I think that we can reclaim it this time," said Dr. Thompson.

"When people go to vote, particularly for superintendent of education, they are more likely to be less ideological. They want to hear who has a vision that's going to help my school in my community," said Dr. Belton.

Sheila Gallagher and Jerry Govan are the other Democratic candidates in the race. All four are scheduled to appear in a statewide debate Thursday on SC-ETV.

Voters will decide in the June 10 primary who they want to see on the ballot in the general election this November.