Democratic Frontrunner Who Abused Ex-Wife Wins South Carolina Primary

Archie Parnell will fight for Mick Mulvaney’s former seat—again—come November.

Mother Jones illustration; Facebook

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Archie Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs managing director who has long been viewed as the Democratic frontrunner in the primary for the House seat representing South Carolina’s 5th District, won his party’s nomination Tuesday night, meaning he’ll move forward to November despite divorce records made public last month that show he physically abused his ex-wife. 

Parnell faced three Democratic challengers, none of whom were well known—though one of the candidates, Steven Lough, did get some attention for his former occupation as a professional clown. Parnell was the clear Democratic favorite since last year, when he ran for the same seat in a special election and came within 3.2 percentage points of winning. But then last month, when his history of abuse became public, and the official party apparatus rescinded its support and called for him to drop out of the race. 

As I wrote for Mother Jones last week: 

Parnell…has admitted to physically abusing his former wife in 1973, using a tire iron to break into an apartment where her friends were trying to protect her. He then struck her several times and beat her again later that evening. She sought a divorce and a restraining order against him.

Most of Parnell’s staff quit after they learned of the abuse, including campaign manager Yates Baroody. Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, called on Parnell to drop out of the race, saying “his actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.” The DCCC also withdrew its support—a representative called Parnell’s abuses “inexcusable and deeply disturbing.”

But in a Facebook video posted to his campaign page June 6, Parnell resisted: “After much prayer and thought, I have concluded I should stay in this race.” He sought help after his violent outburst, he argued, and his marriage to his current wife gave him a second chance. “If I withdraw,” he said, “I would be telling anyone who makes a terrible mistake that that one terrible mistake will define them for the rest of their lives.”

In November, Parnell will square off against Rep. Ralph Norman, the Republican incumbent who defeated him for the same seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, now Trump’s director of the Office of Management in Budget, in last year’s special election. Norman is perhaps best known for pulling out a loaded .38-caliber handgun at a Rock Hill diner to demonstrate that “guns don’t shoot people; people shoot guns,” and then setting the gun down on a table and continuing his “coffee with the constituents” meeting. 

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate