York County Democrats call on Parnell to drop out after domestic violence revelations

Archie Parnell
Archie Parnell

After it was revealed that South Carolina Fifth District Congressional Democratic candidate Archie Parnell had been accused of physically abusing his then-wife in his 1974 divorce, more Democrats are calling on him to drop out of the race.

York County Democratic Party chairman Jim Thompson posted a statement on Facebook Wednesday, condemning Parnell's actions and calling on him to drop out.

"The tragic facts and revelations that have come to light have only one course of action and conclusion, Archie Parnell must end his campaign for Congress," Thompson wrote. "Although almost half a century ago, they are simply disqualifying for a potential member of the United States House of Representatives."

Parnell is running against three other Democratic candidates in the June 12 primary. The winner will face Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in the November election for the Fifth District seat, which includes York County. Norman and Parnell faced off in a 2017 special election for the seat vacated by former Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land when Mulvaney became the White House budget director. Norman won what turned out to be a surprisingly close race by 3 percent of the votes.

Divorce records show that Parnell's ex-wife, Kathleen Parnell, accused Parnell of beating her in October 1973, calling it "acts of physical cruelty," which she said caused her to fear for her life. She obtained a restraining order against Parnell, according to postandcourier.com, which earlier this week reported their divorce was finalized in early 1974.

After that, South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson called on Parnell to drop out, and several of Parnell's key campaign staff members resigned.

"We are living in an era where some in politics have an ever shifting sense of values and principles, shaped by whatever is relevant for the day," Thompson wrote in a statement to the media Monday.

"That is dangerous for democracy, and leaves those who engage in such relativism with zero credibility. It can do nothing more than undermine our system and create a corrosive environment that eats away at the very fabric of our society.

"The Democratic Party can not and will not be part of a political system where mores are decided by what is the candidate dujour. The ends never justify the means."

Parnell declined to drop out of the race Monday. He was not immediately available for further comment Thursday afternoon.

Parnell told The Post and Courier the race is about the people of South Carolina's Fifth Congressional District, not about him.

"Forty-five years ago, while still a college student, I did something that I have regretted every single day since," Parnell said in the statement to The Post and Courier. "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. 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."

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068, @hgsmoot