Former 5th District congressional candidate running for mayor

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A Sumter native who lost a congressional race in 2018 over revealed controversy is seeking another chance to become a politician by filing his candidacy for Sumter’s next mayor.

With plans to put the pandemic, government accountability and ethics at the top of his list, Archie Parnell said he decided to run for mayor to create a bold vision that will put the well-being of Sumter citizens first.

“There is an opportunity in this crisis to make Sumter better,” Parnell said. “We need a full-time leader who believes in all that Sumter can be.”

Parnell ran twice for the South Carolina’s 5th District congressional seat. He narrowly lost a special election in 2017 but lost to U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in 2018 by a greater margin after reports of domestic violence from his first marriage in 1973 were revealed by The Post and Courier, a controversy that led to staff members quitting his campaign.

Parnell insisted then he is a changed man.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Parnell has provided face masks to Sumter residents and helped local small businesses and churches navigate federal COVID-19 relief resources.

“We’ve been engaged in several ways during this crisis,” Parnell said. “I have also chaired the Sumter County Bar Association's COVID-19 Help Committee providing pro bono assistance to help Sumter residents navigate new laws enacted in response to the coronavirus.”

He said he’s currently working with several community leaders and churches to raise money to provide face masks for students at local schools for free.

“We’re living through a crisis. There’s no doubt about that,” Parnell said. “But there’s also an opportunity in this crisis to make Sumter into the place we know it can be. Washington won’t save us. Columbia won’t save us. We have to save ourselves, and we can do that by working together.”

Sumter County has seen a decline in new cases per day since a peak around mid-July, though recent data shows the county is now testing at among the lowest rates in a state that is overall testing less. Sumter City Council passed a mask requirement at the beginning of July.

As a young lawyer, he said he gained government experience as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, and he later served on the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee. He has worked with governments around the world as a tax attorney and at multiple levels throughout his career as a subject matter expert.

Parnell said he’s not satisfied with the status quo.

“There are so many things to be done,” Parnell said, “and this is our moment to make that vision a reality.”

Parnell’s vision for Sumter includes: raising the bar on government transparency and accountability by adopting a City Ethics Code and holding two-way conversations with all of Sumter’s neighborhood associations; examining, with input from interested parties, the city’s connection to social and criminal justice issues and developing needed solutions; leveraging Shaw Air Force Base's prominence as Sumter’s pivotal economic development partner and welcoming Shaw personnel even more into Sumter’s community; developing affordable housing alternatives and partnering with neighborhoods to transform vacant and overgrown lots; insuring the long-term viability and safety of Sumter’s water and sewer systems; working with Team Sumter to provide quality public education for Sumter’s children; and confronting COVID-19 with common sense and compassion, according to his mayoral bid announcement.

“Imagine a city that ensures fairness and dignity for everyone. Imagine a city where government departments are transparent and accountable. Imagine a city that steps up to protect families from COVID-19 and uses this pandemic as an opportunity to move us forward together as one community,” Parnell said. “That is the Sumter we all want to be a part of.”

While growing up in Sumter, Parnell attended local schools and graduated from Sumter High School before going on to college and law school. His ties to Sumter began with his father, who was a master sergeant stationed at Shaw Air Force Base.

He currently resides with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Lydia, in Ward 4 of the city. They have another daughter, Julia, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Filing for the mayoral race, Wards 2, 4 and 6 on Sumter City Council and Seats 5, 6 and 7 on the Sumter school board, all of which are nonpartisan, closed Monday at noon. Parnell will face five candidates, including Sabrina Belcher, who works in private home health care, Debbie Bowen and Foxy Rae Campbell, both Real Estate agents, Sumter City Councilman Calvin Hastie of Ward 3 and Sumter City Councilman David Merchant of Ward 6.

The city's current mayor, Joe McElveen, announced at the beginning of the year he would not seek reelection after serving the role for 20 years.

Anyone who lives in city limits can vote for its next mayor on Nov. 3. Those voting for council and board seats must live in that district.