In 1973, South Carolina 5th Congressional District Democratic candidate Archie Parnell forcefully entered a house with a tire iron, and beat his then wife Kathleen Parnell who said she feared for her life. She took out a restraining order against her husband, and divorced him the following year.
45 years later, police records of the event surfaced in the local media. Prominent members of his staff and several leaders of the South Carolina Democratic Party are urging Parnell to withdraw from the race. So far, he is refusing.
Archie Parnell: It’s all about the people, not me
With a man in the Oval Office who has confessed on film to serial sexual assault in the last decade, Parnell is arguing an incident from 45 years ago when he was just 22 years old should not disqualify him from running in November. Clinging on after a scandal is becoming an increasingly common choice for politicians.
In a statement last week Parnell said, “This campaign has always been about the people of the 5th district, my home, but never about me. Forty five years ago, while still a college student, I did something that I have regretted every single day since. In response to actions I feel unnecessary to specify, I lashed out and became violent with other people, including my former wife, which led to a divorce and monumental change in my life.
“These actions were inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing. Since then, my life has been changed by a remarkable woman, two amazing daughters, a forgiving God and a career that has taught me to cherish what I have.”
The incident may have happened long ago, but Democratic operatives and officials still began fleeing from Parnell’s campaign almost immediately.
His campaign manager Yates Baroody told Charlston-based newspaper, The Post and Courier, “As soon as I discovered [the police records], I immediately resigned from the campaign and advised Archie he should withdraw from the campaign immediately. He has no business running for Congress and he never did.”
South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson, US Representative Jim Clyburn of Columbia, and all four Democratic candidates for Governor of South Carolina have all called on Parnell to pull out. Former State Senator Phil Leventis has cancelled a fundraiser. But for now at least, he is holding fast.
Archie Parnell apologizes, but is still running
On Saturday Parnell made his first public appearance since the story went public at a previously scheduled breakfast meeting for Democrats in Sumpter, South Carolina.
According to Sumter Democratic Party chairwoman Barbara Bowman, “He was very apologetic. He did express that this is something we’re talking about 45 years ago, that he’s spoken to his ex-wife and he was 22 years old. But he didn’t make any excuses. He just apologized and said he was just full of regret and he was sorry.”
Parnell does have supporters. And as a prolific fundraiser (with over $400,000 cash in hand) and much better name recognition than the other three Democrats running in the June 12th primary, he certainly has a chance of making it on the ballot in November.
If that does happen, some are fearing Archie Parnell may be the Democratic version of Roy Moore, who won a Republican special election primary despite repeated allegations of misconduct with under-aged girls. President Trump and the Republican National Convention backed Moore, arguing that sending a Republican to Washington was more important than decades-old wrongdoing. Moore’s Democratic opponent won the general election handily.
If Archie Parnell does make it through the primary, the DNC may have a very difficult choice to make.