U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman has responded to domestic abuse allegations against challenger Archie Parnell, one week after Parnell won the Democratic primary.
Parnell will oppose Norman in the November election.
Allegations that Parnell, a Sumter Democrat, hit the woman who was wife in the 1970s came out May 21, after The Charleston Post and Courier obtained divorce records. Parnell confirmed the report in a video posted to his campaign Facebook page June 6.
Norman, a Rock Hill Republican, released an official statement on his campaign website and a video calling for prayers for Parnell and his family.
"When I read the articles on Mr. Parnell, the immediate thing that I felt was sadness," Norman said in the video. "Not just for him, but for his family, his former wife. It's unfortunate."
Norman said he spoke in a radio interview at the time, but he hadn't released an official statement before Tuesday.
Norman said in the written statement that Democratic voters selected Parnell to represent them despite "frightening revelations of domestic violence."
"We are all human," Norman said in his statement. "However, for a candidate with domestic violence in his past, the time to humble himself and assert that he’s a better person today is before his campaign even gets off the ground. It is not after having mislead his own staff about the past, and certainly not after those revelations became national headlines."
Parnell, who admitted he hit his wife and another person in the video posted to Facebook, struck back at Norman in a statement late Tuesday.
“I don’t think a man who pulled a loaded gun on his constituents two months ago is in a position to lecture anyone about judgment," Parnell said in the statement emailed to The Herald. "I know what I did 45 years ago was wrong and I apologized. Congressman Norman said he'd do it again."
Norman took out a loaded gun at a meet-and-greet with the public at Rock Hill Diner in April and was heavily criticized at the time.
Norman said he had the gun out for a few minutes to prove "guns don't shoot" themselves. He originally said he would do it again, but later said he had already made his point.
“We are eager to publicly debate the issues with Congressman Norman," Parnell said in his emailed statement. "But he doesn’t want to do that because he’d have to answer tough questions about why he’s done nothing to raise wages for working families in South Carolina, why he’s done nothing to keep firearms out of the hands of convicted felons and why he continues to praise a president who is separating refugee children from their parents at the border.”
In the Facebook video posted June 6, Parnell said he had decided he would stay in the congressional race, despite some calls for him to drop out.
"After much prayer and thought, I have concluded I should stay in this race. I need to tell you why," Parnell said in his video. "I hit my ex-wife and another person in a state of rage. No excuse can justify what I did. I hurt her. I was wrong. …If I withdraw, I would not be fully facing my past. If I withdraw, I would be telling anyone who makes a terrible mistake that that one terrible mistake will define them for the rest of their lives."
Several key campaign staff resigned after the report about Parnell became public, and many South Carolina Democrats called for Parnell to step down at the time.
York County Democratic Party Chairperson Jim Thompson said he stands by that decision "absolutely."
"Nothing's changed," he said.
Thompson said he believed the abuse revelation should be "disqualifying," even though he and other members of the Democratic Party knew going into the primary that Parnell would likely win, based on name recognition.
Parnell spokesperson Michael Wukela said he disagrees with Thompson.
"I was raised to believe when it comes to Democratic values, No. 1 on that list was the voters decide the nominee, not county chairman — and Archie Parnell won this primary with 60 percent of the vote," Wukela said. "The voters have spoken clearly."
But Thompson stands by his statement for Parnell to drop out.
"We have our values, and we stick by them," he said.