State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the Democratic candidate for governor, came out with his first television spot Wednesday criticizing Gov. Nikki Haley's administration for its management of the Department of Social Services.
Sheheen's campaign said the ad buy was in the six figures and would run statewide starting Wednesday.
DSS hearings and calls from Democrats for agency director Lillian Koller to step down have dominated discussion in the Statehouse in recent weeks. Koller has twice appeared before a Senate panel looking into problems at DSS to testify about worker caseloads and other issues at the department.
Allegations include that Koller's goals prioritize numbers instead of children's welfare. Koller and the Haley administration dispute that.
Richland County has been called "ground zero" for the agency's problems, following child deaths that some have blamed on the agency.
In the ad, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says Haley's administration is "covering up" failures.
Republicans have criticized Sheheen for past work as a defense attorney, when he defended clients who had abused women. In a statement, Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey echoed that criticism. "This ad wins the academy award for irony," Godfrey said. "Vince Sheheen says he's not playing politics with children's lives, but that's exactly what he's doing with this ad. He brags about his time as a prosecutor, then squeals when it's pointed out that he defended child molesters, drug dealers, and wife beaters, fighting for shorter jail sentences for them. Vince has been running for governor for five straight years, and this ad continues his unbroken streak of negativity and failure to offer South Carolinians any vision for what he would do."
Sheheen, a Camden general practice attorney, has pointed to his work as a prosecutor and has said that he shouldn't be judged for his client's actions.
From the ad's transcript:
"I've handled thousands of child abuse cases. We have to protect these vulnerable kids, but children are dying. Children Nikki Haley's administration is supposed to protect.
Instead of demanding accountability, Nikki Haley is covering up her administration's failures.
Vincent Sheheen is a former prosecutor who won't play politics with children's lives. Vincent will clean up Nikki Haley's mess and protect our children.
Vincent Sheheen will be a governor South Carolina can trust."