COLUMBIA, SC — State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Democratic candidate for governor, is airing his first statewide television ad aimed at highlighting troubles at Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's Department of Social Services.
The ad, part of a six-figure statewide buy, will begin running Wednesday, according to a source with Sheheen's campaign.
The ad features Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, a Democrat, saying he's "handled thousand of child abuse cases. We have to protect these vulnerable kids, but children are dying -- children Nikki Haleys administration is supposed to protect. Instead of demanding accountability, Nikki Haley is covering up her administrations failures."
The ad also touts Sheheen's work experience as a prosecutor. But according to his campaign, Sheheen spent about a year in 2000 as an attorney for the city of Camden.
"Vincent Sheheen is a former prosecutor who wont play politics with childrens lives," Lott continues. "Vincent will clean up Nikki Haleys mess and protect our children. Vincent Sheheen will be a governor South Carolina can trust.
Rob Godfrey, Haley's campaign spokesman, said the ad "wins the academy award for irony. Vince Sheheen says hes not playing politics with childrens lives, but thats exactly what hes doing with this ad."
Godfrey said Sheheen "brags about his time as a prosecutor, then squeals" when critics point out that he defended criminals convicted of criminal sexual conduct, domestic violence, drug violations and other crimes, "fighting for shorter jail sentences for them."
Sheheen and others have called on Haley to fire Social Services Director Lillian Koller amid reports of mismanagement and cases where children involved in Social Services have died. Some of the more prominent cases discussed publicly occurred in Richland County.
Haley has supported her Cabinet chief, saying the state's child-welfare agency has improved under Koller's leadership. Haley also recently announced a plan to focus more Social Services resources on improving services at the agency's Richland County office.
Watch the video here (Can't see it? Click here):