Trump-Backed Sean Parnell Suspends Pennsylvania Senate bid

Trump-Backed Sean Parnell Suspends Pennsylvania Senate bid

Parnell dropped out of the race in the key battleground state after losing a bitter custody battle

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
November 22, 2021

Sean Parnell, Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania who former President Donald Trump endorsed, has suspended his 2022 campaign for the open U.S. Senate seat in the crucial battleground state after losing a legal battle for primary custody of his children.

Parnell’s decision comes shortly after a judge earlier on Monday ruled in favor of Parnell’s estranged wife, Laurie Snell, awarding her primary physical custody and sole legal custody of the couple’s three children, ages 12, 11, and 8. Snell had accused her husband of choking her and injuring their three children — all claims that Parnell has vehemently denied.

“There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can’t continue with a Senate campaign,” Parnell said in a statement announcing his decision on Monday.

The custody battle between Parnell and his estranged wife captured national attention in recent weeks after Snell sought protective orders and testified under oath that he had physically and verbally abused her. The judge also factored in Parnell’s run for Senate, stating in the ruling would require the former Army Ranger to travel away from the children over the next year frequently, adding should he “expects to win the election,” it would lead to Parnell residing half of the year in Washington, D.C.

Parnell said in a statement that he was “devastated by the decision” and intends to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“I strongly disagree with the ruling today, and I’m devastated by the decision,” Parnell said. “I plan on asking the court to reconsider this decision. In the order, two of the leading factors that weighed heavily in the judge’s decision revolved around me being a leading U.S. Senate candidate.”

“My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them,” Parnell added.

Parnell, a decorated former Army Ranger and a staunch supporter of the former president launched his Senate bid for the open seat in May after two-term GOP Sen. Pat Toomey announced last October that he would not seek re-election. The Purple Heart recipient narrowly lost by two points to incumbent Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) for the 17th congressional district, a swing district outside Pittsburgh in the 2020 election.

Parnell received Trump’s endorsement among a crowded field of candidates running for the open seat in September. The former Army Ranger was considered one of the frontrunners for the GOP nomination to replace Toomey after receiving Trump’s endorsement.

“Sean bravely fought for our Country as a Captain in the U.S. Army and was awarded two Bronze Stars (one for valor!) and the Purple Heart,” Trump said in a statement announcing his endorsement of Parnell. “Unlike our current administration, he never left anyone behind … Sean Parnell will always put America First. He has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

The race is seen as one of the most competitive in the country and a top priority seat for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to hold on to the seat as key to their goal in taking back control of the upper chamber of Congress next year.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the NRSC, has maintained that his role is to remain neutral in GOP open primaries, except in the cases of GOP incumbents when asked earlier this month on whether Parnell is the “right guy for this job,” amid intense media scrutiny of Parnell’s child custody proceedings.

“Facts will come out, and we’ll find out exactly what people will think,” Scott said in an interview with CNN earlier this month when pressed about Parnell. “I think what ultimately happens is people are going to look at some of these backgrounds, say is that the type of person they want and also ‘are they talking about the issues that I care about?'”

“I’m not supporting or opposing people in primaries,” Scott added. “I’m going to help our incumbents but help our Republicans get through the primary. That’s what my focus is. The voters of each of the states will decide who the right candidate on the Republican and Democrat side are.”

Meanwhile, Democrats seek to flip the open seat as one of their top pickup opportunities heading into the 2022 midterms. Upon news of Parnell’s decision Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) said Pennsylvania Republicans were “in chaos.”

“This development highlights the weakness of leading GOP Senate candidates in key battlegrounds,” DSCC spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement. “And the vicious infighting amongst Republicans in Pennsylvania is sure to intensify, just like it has in Senate races across the country.”

Parnell spoke with Trump on Monday to inform the former president of his decision to suspend his bid before making the announcement, according to Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich.

Today Sean Parnell spoke with Pres. Trump and told him of his intention to suspend his campaign given the decision by the P.A. court,” Budowich tweeted. “#PASen remains a top priority for Pres. Trump & the ’22 MAGA Map — rallying our movement behind the best America 1st candidate remains critical.”

Parnell was one of nearly a dozen Republican candidates running in the 2022 midterm election to succeed Toomey. His departure leaves Republicans without a clear frontrunner in the Pennsylvania Senate contest. Current candidates include businessman David McCormick and former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sanders. Meanwhile, seven Democrats, including Lamb and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, are running for their party’s Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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