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Republican Mick Mulvaney and Democrat Mandy Powers Norrell have spent the last few weeks responding to a variety of attacks – some posted online, others mailed as fliers to households or placed under car windshields.
Those fliers have included several attacks on both candidates for the District 16 state Senate seat.
The S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus has sent color brochures to homes around the area stating that Mulvaney is taking out-of-state voucher money and hurting public schools.
Others sent by Norrell's campaign say Mulvaney wants to raise gas taxes.
Anonymous fliers left on car windshields at the political forum at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster last week carried the headline, "The Two Faces of Mandy Powers Norrell."
The Internet has been a source of several attacks on the candidates, many originating from blogs, which are online journals.
One blog, by Lancaster native Will Folks, www.fitsnews.com, has focused on the Norrell campaign.
In his postings, Folks, a Republican consultant and the former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, has likened Norrell to John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who made an unsuccessful bid to be the Democrats nominee for president this year. He has also criticized Norrell's attire.
In a recent memo, Norrell's campaign manager responded by saying the blog was "sexist and borderline pornographic."
Norrell, a lawyer and the city attorney for Lancaster, said she would not comment on Folks' blog.
Mulvaney, who is also the one-term incumbent House District 45 representative, said some of his colleagues have told him the District 16 race is the "nastiest race in the state."
He said many of the attacks on him have come directly from Norrell's camp, not from third parties.
"It's been an exceptionally nasty campaign on one side for sure," Mulvaney said. "She lied about me and my business and I really think it's crossing the line."
He compares the tone of this race to the one between Catherine Ceips and Tom Davis for the House District 46 seat in the Republican Primary earlier this year. Mulvaney said allegations in that race were just as nasty, with rumors surfacing that one of the candidates had placed an illegal immigrant at the other's house to generate controversy.
He said the race is very different than the one he ran two years ago for the House District 45 seat. Despite differences with Democrat Alston DeVenny, he said neither campaign became extremely personal.
"We had disagreements about vouchers and education, but I never attacked (my opponent) and he never made outrageous allegations like this," Mulvaney said.
Norrell, on the other hand, said she isn't surprised by the way the campaign has unfolded.
"I knew politics would be like this," Norrell said. "I think Mick Mulvaney has a record people need to know about. I'm not interested by the political back and forth."
Norrell said she's disappointed in some fliers that have been circulated, especially the "Two Faces of Mandy" flier, which didn't say who was responsible for its content.
She said it's one thing for an organization to distribute disparaging brochures, but it's illegal to distribute campaign fliers that do not have a disclosure on them.
An issue that both candidates have commented on recently is an 800-acre housing development in the Panhandle called Edenmoor. There are three liens on the development right now, totaling $2.2 million. There have been allegations that Mulvaney is directly responsible for the stalled project.
Mulvaney said this is not true.
Mulvaney said he sold the property and the new owners are responsible for honoring the development agreement. It's now owned by Lawson's Bend LLC and its parent company GS Carolina.
Norrell said Mulvaney promised several items to the county, such as an EMS station and new ballfields, when the development was approved by County Council. She said it did not seem right that Mulvaney made money off the sale of a development that has stalled.
"I think the facts speak for themselves," Norrell said. "He's using the government to enrich himself and I won't use the government to enrich myself."
Mulvaney said the developers paid for the project with private bonds, not taxpayers' money.
"Just because we sell it to someone else does not mean we renege," Mulvaney said. "Also, the stuff about the taxpayer money is not true."
Back to issues
Both Mulvaney and Norrell said they are interested in getting back to focusing on the issues.
"I'd like to see, to the extent that is possible, that we talk about the issues," Mulvaney said. "I've been saying it for 12 weeks, that we continue to look at the main issues, like jobs and the economy."
"I don't want to get distracted," Norrell said. "These are silly political games that distract from real problems that people are facing. I'm for talking about the issues."
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at email@example.com or (803( 416-8416