Irwin D. Wilson, a candidate for mayor of Columbia, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct 16 years ago.
Wilson, a 39-year-old contractor and associate minister, said he served three years in a South Carolina prison.
An arrest record maintained by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division says Wilson was convicted in February 1994. He is listed on a state-maintained registry of sex offenders.
Wilson said Monday he will continue his race for mayor. He is one of nine candidates.
"Print this," he said. "Print in this state, if you've ever been accused or made a mistake, the state will not let you grow and go to the next level.
"You have to stay a prisoner of the past."
Wilson said the congregation at New Shiloh Baptist Church, where he is associate minister, knows about the conviction.
"Everybody knows," he said. "I don't hide anything."
SLED records also state Wilson was convicted in 1990 for simple assault and battery, trespassing and simple assault.
Wilson said he is attempting to have the third degree criminal sexual conduct conviction expunged from his record. He said he was "forced" to plead guilty.
Wilson said he served his time and shouldn't be judged for something that happened so many years ago.
When a reporter said The State would be doing criminal background checks on all candidates, Wilson acknowledged the conviction.
"It was boyfriend-girlfriend kind of stuff," he said.
Wilson said reporting his criminal record would prejudice people against him, adding, "I don't think that should be relevant today."