CHARLESTON — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Thursday his cell phone has been swamped with calls ever since he put his number in a local political ad. The ringing got even more intense when Democrats sent an email suggesting donors nationwide call the number.

“I've gotten hundreds and hundreds of calls from different people around the nation,” said Sanford, a Republican who is running against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch – the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert – in a May 7 special congressional election.

Sanford said the deluge of calls showed he was also up against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She “has made a $600,000 investment, she is raising more money and she has supporters calling my cell phone,” he said.

A spokesman for the House Majority PAC, Andy Stone, said Pelosi supports the group but does not run it.

Stone said Sanford invited the phone calls by taking out a full-page ad in The Post and Courier of Charleston last weekend responding in part to an ad the PAC aired criticizing Sanford's travel as governor.

In his newspaper ad, Sanford said the PAC ads didn't tell the whole story and if people had concerns they could contact his campaign website, his campaign office or call his cell.

Three years ago, Sanford paid the largest ethics fine in state history, $74,000, after investigation showed he traveled on commercial airlines on high-priced seats despite the state's low-cost travel rules. He also used state planes for personal and political trips.

Sanford famously left the state for five days in 2009, with staffers telling the media he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail. Instead, he was in Argentina, visiting his mistress to whom he is now engaged.

Democrats' email sent Wednesday told donors to call Sanford's cell and “ask why he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars on luxury travel.”

Sanford produced a printout of part of his cell phone log showing he had received calls from as far away as San Francisco, Wisconsin and New York.

“My ad was for people here locally,” he said. “I have been in two-way communication with people here in the 1st Congressional District for 20 years.”

Sanford held the seat for three terms during the 1990s.

“He invited people with concerns to give him a ring,” Stone said. “He specifically did that in response to House Majority PAC ads. We were doing as he asked and people were calling him with questions.”

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the candidate has no plans to get a new number.

James Smith, a spokesman for the Colbert Busch campaign, said “Elizabeth has no involvement with House Majority PAC.”