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(WBIR - Knoxville) Knox County Commission Vice Chairman R. Larry Smith on Wednesday morning said he was pulling out of the District 7 School Board race because "there are better candidates."

Smith, who is term-limited as a commissioner, said he's raised roughly $25,000 in his campaign bid, and that he would return the money.

That leaves, Patti Lou Bounds, a teacher, and local businessman Andrew Graybeal in the contest.

Smith said that when he made his initial announcement to run in December, he felt he would be the "best person" to serve. Since then, though, others qualified to run, including Bounds whose "educational experience" he touted during his announcement Wednesday at the 640 Building.

Smith said he was "grieved by the deficiencies in our public school classroom," and concerned about teachers who "live under the perpetual threat of job loss because some children have little or no educational support at home."

He added that the students and teachers "deserve better."

"(it) is my understanding that candidates have entered this race who have educational expertise and professional experience that I do not," he said. "The stakes are too high for me to further pursue this office, knowing that there are more qualified candidates than I. Make no mistake, I want what is best for our schools and it is clear in my mind that there are better candidates."

"To serve, you need to have the passion, time, dedication, and it helps to have experience," he said.

Bounds has taught in the Knox County School System for 23 years, including the past 10 as a kindergarten teacher at Brickey-McCloud Elementary.

Smith said at this point he won't endorse either candidate but would like to meet with them.

Smith also noted that he hasn't ruled out a future run at office. He joked that since he raised "$25,000 in three weeks" that he might have the clout to run for county mayor one day. He also said he might sit out one four-year election cycle and then run for a commission post again.

Smith's district includes the Halls and Fountain City area.

Smith has until noon Thursday to submit an official form to the election commission that he's withdrawing, so that his name doesn't appear on the ballot.

The school board non-partisan primary is set for May 6.

Incumbent Kim Severance opted not to seek re-election.

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