Rex, 67, said Thursday he's actively exploring a run and will make a decision next month. He's the only person considering a bid who holds a statewide office and has the name recognition other candidates will have to spend money to create.
He said his top priorities would be job creation, education and overhauling a state tax system that he believes relies too heavily on sales taxes. It would be only the second political race for Rex, who won by a slim margin in 2006. His career includes stints as president of Columbia College, education dean at Coastal Carolina and Winthrop universities and as a University of South Carolina vice president.
"People understand the connection between education and economic development, but right now they're interested in jobs. The top priority has to be to turn the economy around and to work 24/7 in finding jobs" and helping existing companies expand, said Rex, the only Democrat in statewide office. "We need to get serious about what we expect government to do, at a minimum to work with others regardless of party, to solve some of these problems."
He believes South Carolina should be a leader in "green technology" through natural gas off the coast, solar and nuclear energy "as long as it's safe, and it looks like it can be these days."
Democrats are seeing a crowded field develop for the 2010 primary. Sens. Robert Ford of Charleston and Vincent Sheheen of Camden and Charleston lawyer Mullins McLeod are already in the race and have filed campaign finance reports.
House Minority Leader Harry Ott of St. Matthews says he's considering a run. Democrats also expect Columbia lobbyist Dwight Drake to run. He wouldn't comment on his plans.