Sabrina Belcher, 29, whose campaign says she is the first black female to run for mayor in Sumter, admitted to planning the ruse, the Sumter Police Department said in a press release.
Belcher recorded herself being kidnapped and beaten and posted the footage on Facebook Live.
Christopher Eaddy, 34, is accused of helping carry out the scheme, and was also arrested.
The recording was made in an attempt to garner publicity, sympathy, and votes in the November election, police said.
The recording was also made in an attempt to discredit a fellow candidate; Belcher planned to smear other rivals later this year.
Things unraveled after Belcher went to the police station just before midnight on Tuesday and claimed she was the victim of a kidnapping and assault. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.
During the investigation, Belcher provided a fake name for the man who attacked her but officers determined she was in contact with the man, Eaddy, to concoct the ruse. Belcher and Eaddy worked together just days before the incident, police said.
“This was simply an effort to create disorder and discontent in our community for personal gain,” Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said in a statement. “As a result, a valuable number of resources, including personnel, manhours of the police department as well as local medical professionals, were wasted based on false information.”
A Facebook message sent to Belcher’s campaign, which hasn’t addressed the arrest, wasn’t returned. Belcher does not have a campaign website.
Belcher was charged with filing a false police report of a felony and conspiracy. Eaddy was charged with conspiracy.
Both were booked into jail on Wednesday.
About 45 miles west of Columbia, Sumter has a population of around 40,000.
After longtime Sumter Mayor Joseph McElveen Jr. announced this year he wouldn’t run for reelection, six candidates jumped into the race to succeed him, including Belcher.
The candidate told the Sumter Item in June that she wanted to bring change to the city, which she’s lived in since she was young.
“To me, it would be a great deal of responsibility and a lot of change for our city because South Carolina itself is one of the places where slavery and discrimination really began,” Belcher said, adding that if she were elected, “it would totally, completely change my heart because it will make me feel as though we are getting somewhere as a community.”