A public forum in Conway between two Democratic candidates for S.C. governor — and the third's running mate — dissolved into a heated exchange on Wednesday, when a candidate publicly accused her opponent's campaign of stealing her campaign signs.
And that was not the only moment when tempers flared.
Amid debate over policy at Horry-Georgetown Technical College Wednesday night, candidate and Florence anti-trust attorney Marguerite Willis said she wanted to suggest her own topic to debate.
"I want to talk tonight ... about honesty and ethics and corruption," Willis said at the forum, captured on video and posted to Facebook. "And I want to talk, particularly, and that may sound strange to you, about who's stealing my campaign signs."
In her hometown of Greenville, Willis said her campaign placed 100 campaign signs in a "very hot precinct." The following day, all the signs were missing and replaced with signs promoting James Smith's bid for S.C. governor, she said.
The same occurred in Florence, Willis said, adding the signs were later found in a dumpster "neatly organized," and were removed by the city of Florence. The signs in Greenville never surfaced, she said.
An official with the city of Florence said they have no knowledge of sign-stealing in the area. But added the city is actively removing an campaign signs that are placed in violation of the city's rules and codes and in the city's right-of-way.
While Smith was not at the debate Wednesday, his lieutenant governor pick — state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster — was.
"I want to know, Mandy, why are you folks taking up my signs and putting your signs in their place?" Willis said.
Powers Norrell said Wednesday she was not aware Willis' campaign signs were ever stolen and said stealing campaign signs is not something the campaign would do.
But the debate over sign-stealing did not end there.
After the forum, Willis confronted Powers Norrell in a heated exchange that was captured on cellphone video and provided to The State by someone at the event.
"What makes you believe that you know that James' campaign is taking your signs?" Powers Norrell says on the video.
"... Day 10, ours were there," Willis responds. "Day 11, they're all gone and James' are in their place. Now look at that circumstantial evidence."
Captured on the video, at least twice Willis' staff appear to attempt to pull her from the conversation. But Willis does not budge.
Wednesday, Powers Norrell told Willis she will try to find out what happened to the signs and would be in touch with the candidate.
Willis' campaign has not reported the allegations of sign-stealing to police, but campaign spokesman Les Braswell said Thursday, "we are in conversations about that."
Braswell said the campaign stands by Willis' claims that the Smith campaign or Smith campaign supporters were behind the missing signs.
This is not the first time candidates for S.C. governor have been miffed over campaign signs.
In May, GOP candidate Catherine Templeton sounded off on Twitter after a S.C. teenager returned home from babysitting and said she found her yard covered in campaign signs supporting Gov. Henry McMaster's bid for governor.
The teen, Emma Scott, works for Templeton's campaign.
McMaster's campaign denied having any involvement in the mass sign display.
But on Wednesday night in Conway, campaign sign-stealing was not the only disputed and heated allegation.
Democratic candidate Phil Noble accused Willis of not telling the truth, after accusing Willis of mischaracterizing his proposal to improve child welfare.
In February, Noble told The State one way to improve child welfare would be to create a system that tracks children, starting before they are born with their pregnant mothers registering with the state. That would help identify families that need state services, he said.
"I never used the words track a fetus, register a fetus," Noble said Wednesday.
Willis said she never used the word "fetus."
But Noble strongly disagreed.
"Excuse me you, you did say fetus," he said. "You said fetus (expletive), pardon. You said fetus."
The S.C. primary is June 12.