Dem Congressional Candidate Wins Primary Despite Revelations of Spousal Abuse

Democratic congressional candidate Archie Parnell / Getty Images
• June 12, 2018 11:17 pm


Archie Parnell, a Democratic congressional candidate in South Carolina, won the Democratic primary Tuesday night in a landslide weeks after it was publicly revealed that he abused his wife in the 1970s.

Parnell, who has admitted to hurting his ex-wife, received 60 percent of the vote against his three Democratic opponents, according to Politico. This win comes after Parnell faced a wave of criticism in May when court records came to light showing he inflicted "acts of physical cruelty" on his spouse at the time.

Parnell's ex-wife, Kathleen Parnell, said their marriage fell apart in 1973 after he made "unwarranted accusations" and became violent, according to divorce records obtained by the Post and Courier.

In October 1973, Archie Parnell, then a University of South Carolina student, was locked out of some friends' apartment to protect Kathleen Parnell, who was staying there. At 2 a.m., Archie Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door, the complaint said. He made more unspecified accusations to Kathleen Parnell before striking her several times. She said she was beaten again later that evening.

After the "acts of physical cruelty," Kathleen Parnell said she feared for her life and did not want to stay married. She obtained a restraining order against Archie Parnell after seeking the divorce, according to court documents. The divorce was finalized in early 1974.

Confronted with the court records by aides last week, Parnell did not deny the allegations. But even as his staff fled the campaign en masse, he refused to drop out of the race Monday.

Parnell was the subject of a glowing profile from Politico last year and was touted as the "best Democratic campaign of 2017" after he nearly defeated Ralph Norman, the Republican congressman he is now trying to unseat.

Shortly after it came out that Parnell physically abused his ex-wife, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) communications director Meredith Kelly condemned Parnell, saying he "should drop out of this race immediately." She also told CNN over the weekend that the DCCC "won't invest in his campaign" even if he wins the primary.

The Democratic Party of South Carolina chairman Trav Robertson also condemned Parnell's behavior after the news broke, saying that he "has no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District." He also said that Parnell's behavior "directly contradict[s] the values of the Democratic Party."

Parnell expressed remorse when confronted with revelations of the court records, but he repeatedly said that he would not drop out of the race.

"This campaign has always been about the people of the 5th district, my home, but never about me," Parnell said in a statement. "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," Parnell added. "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."

Published under: 2018 Election, DCCC, South Carolina