Republican US Representative Ralph Norman has called on his Democratic opponent in the South Carolina 5th Congressional District race, Archie Parnell, to withdraw. Parnell’s campaign was rocked in May when records of an assault made by Parnell on his then wife while a college student surfaced in the media. Despite the controversy, Parnell stayed in the race and won the June 12th Democratic primary.
Ralph Norman and Democrats ask nominee to withdraw
Although news of Archie Parnell’s 1973 assault on his then-wife Kathleen Parnell has been circulating in the media for weeks, Republican Ralph Norman only spoke publicly on the issue for the first time yesterday. Breaking the silence with a video on his official website, Norman also addressed his opponent’s lack of candor in an accompanying statment:
“The pursuit of elected office without being upfront about something of this magnitude is simply unacceptable.
“We are all human. However, for a candidate with domestic violence in his past, the time to humble himself and assert that he’s a better person today is before his campaign even gets off the ground. It is not after having mislead his own staff about the past, and certainly not after those revelations became national headlines.”
Speaking to the national headlines generated by Parnell’s decision to stay in the race and his subsequent primary victory, Norman said:
[Parnell] is aware that much of the media coverage of South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District election will no longer be on what matters most, but instead on the performance of a candidate who was not forthcoming about his past. And with their calls for for him to step aside, the Democrat Party has rightfully made it clear how isolated and ineffective he would be in Washington, if elected.
Ralph Norman’s characterization of Parnell’s outcast-status among fellow Democrats is accurate. Most of his campaign staff resigned in the immediate wake of the revelations, and most of South Carolina’s prominent Democrats have publicly called for him to bow out.
But with strong name recognition and a significant advantage in fundraising, Parnell shrugged off the outside pressure and won a convincing victory over his three Democratic primary opponents on June 12th.
Parnell refused to withdraw to help other mistake-makers
Archie Parnell’s justification for not being forthcoming about his past is based on the length of time since the incident occurred (45 years) and the happily married man he has transformed himself into today.
“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,” he said in a May statement.
A few weeks after his initial explanations he found a new justification for holding firm: being the champion of others we have done something dreadful and want a second chance.
“If I withdraw, I would be telling anyone who makes a terrible mistake that that one terrible mistake will define them for the rest of their lives,” he said in a June 6th Facebook video.
Now, with the self-serving justifications out of the way, Parnell has turned on the attack.
Responding to Norman’s video message in an emailed statement sent to the Upcountry South Carolina newspaper, the Herald Parnell said, “I don’t think a man who pulled a loaded gun on his constituents two months ago is in a position to lecture anyone about judgment,”
Parnell referred to a bizarre incident in April when Ralph Norman produced a previously-concealed loaded weapon at a local diner in front of a group of Moms Demand Action activists. His purpose, he claimed, was to demonstrate to the gun-control advocates that guns and bullets do not kill people, people do.
Questionable as Norman’s judgement may have been, no one was assaulted during the incident and the Congressman hardly tried to keep the incident private for 45 years. One might question Archie Parnell’s judgement further for trying to draw a comparison between the two events.
Norman and Parnell know each other well. They both previously contested the 5th Congressional District seat in a June 2017 special election. Norman won the hard-fought race by less than 3,000 votes.
At the time, as a popular Democratic insurgent candidate, Archie Parnell attracted national attention, donations, and support from top Democrats. Now a pariah in his own party, the national attention he gets is entirely negative, the support has turned to condemnation, and donations are likely to dry up entirely.
Whether he withdraws or not Archie Parnell will likely struggle to continue a competitive campaign for long.