Sumterite Parnell gets 5th District Democratic nomination despite past abuse

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 6/13/18

Sumter native Archie Parnell's decision to stay in the race proved beneficial — at least through Tuesday.

Parnell easily won the U.S. House of Representatives' District 5 Democratic primary …

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Sumterite Parnell gets 5th District Democratic nomination despite past abuse

Posted

Sumter native Archie Parnell's decision to stay in the race proved beneficial — at least through Tuesday.

Parnell easily won the U.S. House of Representatives' District 5 Democratic primary nomination over three political newcomers who were largely unknown in the district. As of 10:35 p.m. with about 80 percent of statewide precincts reporting, Parnell had earned 60 percent of the total votes.

Parnell said he was humbled and happy with the primary results when he spoke late Tuesday from a small private gathering in Sumter with family and close friends.

"I am very, very happy, but I didn't win this by myself," Parnell said. "There were a lot of people working together on this, and this is about the people of the 5th District. The voters have spoken, and we're pleased with the results."

In recent weeks, many Democrats in the district, state and national levels had called on Parnell to drop out of the primary after revelations surfaced that he physically abused his ex-wife decades ago.

In May, The Post and Courier of Charleston obtained divorce records from 1973 in which Parnell's ex-wife accused the then-University of South Carolina student of beating her. The marriage lasted about two years, and the divorce was finalized in early 1974, according to records.

Confronted with the court records in mid-May, Parnell didn't deny the allegations, but he said he wouldn't drop out of the primary. 

Parnell told the paper his behavior with his first wife was "inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing." Two of the four members of his campaign staff left following the abuse reports, he said.

Parnell said little publicly in the initial following weeks.

However, in a Facebook video post last week, Parnell said he should have been upfront on the situation from the beginning but said he was still staying in the race — despite calls from party members on all levels for him to withdraw. Parnell said at the time in the Facebook post that quitting the race would send a negative message to anyone who has also made mistakes in their past.

Parnell said Tuesday night that everyone must face their past, but no person should be defined by their worst mistake. 

"I am not the same person as I was in '73, and I think people can see that," Parnell said.

Parnell will now face incumbent Republican Ralph Norman in the Nov. 6 general election. Norman ran unopposed Tuesday.

In a special election last year, Parnell drew national attention when he only lost by three percentage points to Norman.

Most political observers and pundits have said they believe revelations of Parnell's domestic violence case have dealt a huge blow to Democrats' chances of flipping the Republican seat in Congress in November. 

Parnell said Tuesday's results in part show those people were too quick to judge him. He also said that today he will meet with supporters and his two remaining staff members to establish plans for reaching out and talking to members of the 5th District during the next five months. He said he will replace the two staff members that left his campaign team. 

The 5th District includes at least parts of 11 counties and spans the north central portion of the state from Cherokee and York counties through parts of Sumter County. Rock Hill and Fort Mill in York County are two rapidly growing cities in the district and are suburbs of Charlotte.