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Democratic leaders urge South Carolina U.S. House candidate to withdraw over past spousal abuse

Archie Parnell, who nearly won an upset in a 2017 special election, had been favored to win party’s nomination in 5th District

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Democrat Archie Parnell, who came out of nowhere to nearly win a ruby red South Carolina House seat in 2017, is being urged by Democratic leaders to withdraw from June 12 primary in the 5th District, after divorce records revealed that he abused his first wife in the 1970s.

Archie Parnell, D-Congressional candidate

The revelations, first reported by The Post and Courier in Charleston, may have extinguished Democrats’ somewhat distant hopes of flipping a Republican seat in the Palmetto State in 2018.

The chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have both called on Parnell to pull out of the race, and his campaign manager resigned, telling The Post and Courier that Parnell “has no business running for Congress, and he never did.”

Parnell has so far resisted calls to step aside. However, in a statement given to The Post and Courier, he acknowledged that he had been “violent” with his first wife, from whom he was divorced in 1974.

“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,” he said. “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.

Parnell’s divorce records were first obtained by his campaign manager, Yates Baroody, who resigned after confronting Parnell with the information they contained.

According to the Post and Courier, the records detail an incident in which Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door of an apartment where his then wife, Kathleen, had sought protection from him, then struck her several times. At the time, he was a student at the University of South Carolina.

Kathleen Parnell got a restraining order and filed for divorce, which was finalized in 1974, according to The Post and Courier.

Parnell, 67, from Sumter, is a tax attorney and former Goldman Sachs executive. In 2017, he ran in a special election in the 5th District, which takes in the north central part of the state, stretching along the I-77 corridor from the suburbs of Charlotte down to near Columbia.

The seat became vacant when Mick Mulvaney gave it up to become President Trump’s budget director. And although Trump won the district by 19 points in 2016, as Mulvaney was cruising to a 20-point win, Parnell showed surprising strength, coming within 4 points of defeating Republican Ralph Norman, who had been heavily favored.

After Parnell decided on a rematch with Norman in 2018, the DCCC added the 5th District race to its target list, and he was considered the prohibitive favorite in the primary against three little-known opponents, one of whom is a professional circus clown.

Even if Parnell withdraws from the race, state officials have said it is too late to remove his name from the ballot, although Democrats may be able to pick a substitute candidate if Parnell wins and then steps aside.

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