The South Carolina Education Association, the state's oldest professional organization for educators, has announced its "official recommendation" to back Democrat Vincent Sheheen for governor versus GOP incumbent Nikki Haley.

"Sen. Sheheen is the best choice for South Carolina, particularly because of his leadership and advocacy on behalf of public education," said Jackie B. Hicks, SCEA president.

The group's announcement noted Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, is a product of public schools and that both of his parents were professional educators.

"In addition, as an attorney and business owner, Sen. Sheheen is keenly aware of the profound connection between quality public schools and our ability to sustain and grow a viable workforce," Hicks said. The group also pointed to his support for the expanded access to 4-year-old kindergarten.

"Moving forward, Sen, Sheheen will continue to work tirelessly on increasing early childhood education opportunities, improving K-12 education, and strategies to make college more affordable for all."

The group has a membership of 12,000 teachers and other educators.

"I have been proud to stand with them to support public education for many years and I am honored to receive the SCEA's endorsement for governor," Sheheen said.