- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina Rep. Andy Patrick announced Tuesday he’s ending his run for state schools chief, and leaving the House too, for his children’s sake amid a contentious divorce.

Patrick’s decision to exit the race - just two weeks after jumping in - comes days after The Island Packet of Hilton Head Island reported allegations his wife made in an affidavit for their divorce proceedings in family court. Patrick denied the allegations as categorically false or misleading.

But he said he realizes a campaign is not in his children’s best interests and asks for their privacy. The 44-year-old father of five children, ages 7 to 19, also will not seek a third term representing Hilton Head Island. His local newspaper reports he is not currently living in his district.

“Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that before I can continue my service to my state, I must first ensure that my children have their dad by their side during a very difficult time for our family,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to working on behalf of my constituents and all South Carolina families, but at this time a campaign is not best for my children.”

The U.S. Air Force veteran and former U.S. Secret Service agent was the first Republican to officially announce his candidacy following Superintendent Mick Zais’ announcement last month that he won’t seek re-election.

Responding to criticism over his lack of classroom experience, Patrick said the superintendent’s job has more to do with leadership skills than classroom time.

A New York native and former New York state trooper, Patrick moved to South Carolina in 2007. He ran unsuccessfully last year for Congress in the 1st District special election won by former Gov. Mark Sanford. Patrick was among 16 Republicans in that GOP primary.

Other Republicans to officially announce a bid for superintendent are GOP activist Sheri Few of Lugoff, and Gary Burgess Sr. of Pendleton, a former high school principal and college professor. Others say they’re considering a run for the Republican nomination.

Democrats vying for the job are state Rep. Mike Anthony of Union, a retired teacher and coach, and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a former principal who worked as Zais’ director of school transformation.

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