We will probably never know who sent out the anonymous mailer claiming to support Ginny Deerin in the recent Charleston mayoral race. It purported to endorse Deerin for her support of LGBT rights. This should not be surprising, since Deerin is a public and outspoken member of the LGBT community.

But as City Paper editor Chris Haire commented, “No one in their right mind believed the mailer was designed to help the candidate.” For one thing, it misspelled Deerin’s name — Deering! — and for another, it claimed to be sent out by a non-existent LGBT group and fraudulently carried the logos of two LGBT organizations, neither of which had knowledge of the mailer. Haire speculated that it was meant to “creep out” black voters, who tend to be uncomfortable with gay marriage and related issues.

That mailer was followed days later by another, this one from an outfit called Charleston Residents for Responsible Government. It had no sexual content, but made questionable claims about Deerin’s record, her agenda, and her supporters. As S.C. Secretary of State records show, the organization was created on Sept. 3, 2015 and its registered agent is Columbia attorney Matthew T. Richardson, who also happened to be a donor to the campaign of Leon Stavrinakis, another mayoral candidate. Richardson’s mailer also carried the same obscure 2010 photo of Ginny Deerin as the anonymous LGBT mailer. Of course, Richardson claims no connection to the mailer which tried to smear Deerin. “Quite frankly, there is no basis for anyone to speculate such a communication would ever be sent by the group,” he told Haire.

For some of you, all of this may seem like a flashback.

Back in 2006, I reported on the House District 115 race between Democrat Eugene Platt and Republican Wallace Scarborough. Platt is a poet with several volumes of verse in print, who likes to wax breathlessly about his lover’s breasts and buttocks and “mirrored forms lying side by side overhead.” A few weeks before the election, thousands of District 115 residents found in their mailboxes a glossy, four-color flyer featuring the following text: “Warning: Contains References and Explicit Language.” It added, “Local Author, Candidate Promotes Deviant Sexual Behavior in Erotic Poetry Collection.” This flyer was sent out by South Carolinians for Responsible Government, which the Secretary of State’s Office shows is headed by GOP politician and campaign consultant Tom Swatzel of Georgetown.

While there is no apparent connection between the two “Responsible Government” groups, what is clear is that sexual smear campaigns never go out of style in South Carolina. Before the 2000 Republican presidential primary, anonymous calls went out to thousands of potential GOP voters, informing them that Sen. John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black daughter and forced his wife to raise her. It was a lie — they adopted a child from Bangladesh — but enough people believed it to hand the primary and, ultimately, the White House to George W. Bush.

In 2010, two political consultants, including Will Folks of FITSNews fame, stated they had sexual encounters with Nikki Haley. For many, the charges rang hollow, and, as a result, they did not stop Haley from being elected governor.

In 2012, before the GOP presidential primary, an anonymous fake email went out to South Carolina Republicans, telling them that Newt Gingrich had forced his ex-wife to have an abortion. Gingrich nevertheless won the primary.

And then, in 2013, a notorious push poll went out to state voters before the special 1st Congressional District race between Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch. In this telephone “poll,” anonymous questioners asked voters what they would think of Colbert Busch if they knew she had an abortion. The 58-year-old grandmother had never had an abortion, but the smear almost certainly contributed to her loss to Sanford.

Beyond the sleazy nature of sexual smears — usually anonymous — is the twisted logic of the accusations. If Colbert Busch had an abortion, would it have been any worse than the shameful way Sanford abandoned his family and his state as governor in order to have a tryst with his mistress in Argentina? Why did Gingrich’s opponents focus on a false abortion, rather than the two very real and shabby divorces in which he left wives for other women? And three years after anonymous callers falsely claimed that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black daughter, it was revealed that the late Strom Thurmond actually had fathered such a daughter with a 16-year-old house servant, but there’s no evidence that this ever diminished South Carolina’s love for its favorite senator.

South Carolinians have a strange and unhealthy attitude toward sex, and it affects not just their personal relationships but their politics as well.

Will Moredock is the author of Living in Fear: Race, Politics & The Republican Party in South Carolina.