POLITICS

Republican Sally Atwater Faces Lawsuit Alleging She Shoved Student Who Wanted Candy

06/23/2014 02:03 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2014

WASHINGTON -- A lawsuit filed last week alleges that Sally Atwater, who is running for the Republican nomination for state superintendent of education in South Carolina, shoved a student in one of her classes.

The plaintiffs in the personal injury suit -- the parents of the student, who is described only as having "special needs" -- say that in December, Atwater set up a piñata in her classroom but instructed her students not to pick up the candy when the piñata eventually broke open. The suit alleges that when the student ran at the candy, Atwater shoved him away "with a crazed, angry look on her face."

The lawsuit is seeking damages from Atwater and from the school district where she was employed. The student is not named in the suit.

Her campaign has pushed back forcefully against the suit, which was filed on Wednesday. Spokesman Luke Byars said it smacks of political opportunism coming less than a week before Tuesday's runoff election.

“This is a baseless and frivolous lawsuit. Sally will fight this with every legal option available to her," Byars said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post. He added that the campaign has asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate the suit for "this attempt to hijack this election through blackmail and extortion."

Sally Atwater is the widow of Lee Atwater, the legendary and infamous Republican operative who engineered President George H.W. Bush's 1988 victory over Michael Dukakis. He was known for his idiosyncratic personality and brutal campaign tactics.

Sally Atwater has remained involved in Republican politics since her husband's death in 1991. She was executive director of President George W. Bush's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. In 2010, she started working as a staff member for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Two years later, she began teaching students at Hendersonville Elementary School in Colleton County -- where the events described in the lawsuit allegedly took place.

She is running against Molly Spearman, the current head of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. The GOP primary runoff has drawn some national attention in the past week, after an interview in which Atwater struggled to articulate a position on the state's sexual education curriculum.

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