Democrat Everton Blair pulls out of Georgia superintendent race

Former Gwinnett County school board chair Everton Blair has decided not to run for state schools superintendent, saying Friday he plans to “support other qualified candidates” less than two months after he entered the race.

Blair announced his campaign in January with a promise to be a bridge-builder who would move beyond the “screaming and yelling” about education policy.

But he said Friday he would step aside to help Democrats “consolidate resources early rather than spend money against other qualified candidates.”

Though Blair didn’t specify his reason, his allies say he was recently accepted into an elite academic program.

His withdrawal raises the likelihood that another high-profile Democrat could challenge incumbent Republican Richard Woods ahead of the qualifying period that begins next week.

Dr. Jaha Howard, a Democratic dentist who serves on Cobb County’s board of education, is also in the running. So is former state school superintendent John Barge, a Republican.

Blair, the first Black and openly gay member of Gwinnett’s board of education, had framed himself as a candidate who could tone down the vitriol over mask requirements, virtual schooling and vaccine mandates.

He said he now plans to serve through the end of his term as a member of Gwinnett’s board of education.

“As someone who has always been focused on making progress for students, I intend to continue doing everything I can to support public education and good candidates for public office across Georgia,” he said.