Less than a week after she left the hospital following a severe car crash, the Donald Trump-backed South Carolina congressional candidate who defeated Mark Sanford is already back in fierce fighting mode.

Katie Arrington's campaign claimed Democratic rival Joe Cunningham broke a pledge to suspend political activities after the accident and campaigned while she was in intensive care.

"God bless you, Cunningham. Give it all you got, honey," the 47-year-old Summerville lawmaker told Fox News in a story posted Wednesday. "No one wants (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi, and now, you're the party of Maxine Waters. Good luck."

Cunningham said he was disappointed, but not surprised by her comments.

"What we're hearing from her camp is the same old, same old politics as usual," Cunningham told The Post and Courier on Thursday. "We want to move past that. We want to put people over politics."

How Cunningham supposedly violated his no-campaigning pledge after Arrington suffered spine and abdominal injuries in a head-on collision with a drunk driver on June 22 is up for debate.

Michael Mulé, Arrington's campaign spokesman, noted that the Cunningham campaign sent a fundraising email on June 28, just two days before the end of the latest quarter to report contributions.

Arrington was moved out of the intensive care unit on June 27, but her campaign said it was not publicly announced until the evening of June 28 after Cunningham's email went to supporters.

"Did we say it was a gracious move at first for him to suspend his campaign? Yes," Mulé told The Post and Courier. "But, looking back at the timeline, Joe Cunningham was disingenuous."

Mulé also criticized Cunningham for meeting with representatives from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee while Arrington was still in the hospital.

Cunningham disputed the claims.

"Out of respect for Katie and her family, we canceled campaign events for nearly three weeks after Katie’s accident. We weren’t thinking about the politics of this. We were trying to do the right thing," he said. "We continue to pray nightly that she makes a full recovery and we look forward to seeing her on the campaign trail very soon."

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Clemson University political science professor David Woodard, who has been involved in GOP politics for a generation, said Cunningham's actions were not out of bounds.

"There's always an opportunity in campaigns to open up this jar that something was over the line or improper. I don’t really think that this is, frankly," Woodard said. "Sending out a fundraising request right before the deadline is reasonable. You'd have to be really searching to find that this was playing over the corpse or off-key."

Arrington surprised the country last month by defeating Sanford, a former governor in his second stint on Capitol Hill, to become the Republican nominee in the 1st Congressional District that stretches from Charleston to Hilton Head Island.

She won Trump's backing after Sanford repeatedly criticized the president's policies. 

The general election is Nov. 6.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

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