COLUMBIA, S.C. — A leading Democratic congressional candidate in South Carolina's 5th District said Wednesday that he's staying in the race despite calls from party leaders to quit over decades-old domestic violence.
In a video posted to his campaign Facebook page, Archie Parnell admitted that he hit his ex-wife 45 years ago and apologized for not disclosing that detail of his divorce to voters and his staff. Last month, the head of the South Carolina Democratic Party called on Parnell to withdraw after The Post and Courier of Charleston obtained divorce records in which Parnell's ex-wife said that he shattered a glass door with a tire iron and beat her in 1973.
Parnell told the paper that his behavior was "inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing." In Wednesday's video, the candidate said that he should have been upfront about the situation from the beginning.
"I want you to know I apologized and asked for forgiveness from my ex-wife, and I ask for forgiveness from God," Parnell said. "I have apologized to my wife Sarah and our two daughters for the suffering caused them by recent publicity of what I did terribly wrong long ago."
Parnell narrowly lost last year's special election to Republican Ralph Norman. Parnell received 48 percent of the vote in the 5th District, which spans 11 mostly rural counties as it stretches north from Columbia, through Charlotte suburbs and then west to pick up more rural areas. It had been in Democratic hands for more than 100 years until state Republicans redrew the map, changing the boundaries to draw it more safely under their party's control. Republican Mick Mulvaney won the seat in 2010, defeating longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. John Spratt.
In the video, Parnell goes on to apologize to donors, volunteers and campaign employees for not being honest about his past. Parnell's staff left his campaign in droves, his website disappeared, and his Twitter account went dormant following the abuse reports. Wednesday's video was his first appearance on social media in nearly a month.
Even if Parnell had opted to withdraw from the race, it's too late for his name to be removed from ballots. South Carolina's primary elections are next week, and three other Democrats are seeking their party's nomination in the 5th District.
Aside from that, Parnell said quitting the race would send a negative message to anyone who has also made mistakes in their past.
"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," Parnell said. "I know what I did 45 years ago was horribly wrong; I am not that same person now. My name is on the ballot and the voters of the 5th district should decide the outcome of this election."