Photo: Courtesy of campaign
Republican Senate candidate and Pittsburgh-area resident Sean Parnell has suspended his campaign.
The news comes right after a ruling from a Butler County judge was published that ruled against Parnell in a custody case
, granting Laurie Snell, Parnell’s estranged wife, sole legal and primary physical custody of their three children. It had been rumored that if Parnell were to lose the custody case, he would drop out of the race.
In a statement, Parnell said he will ask the court to reconsider the custody case, but until then, he cannot continue with his campaign for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat.
"I can't continue with a Senate campaign,” said Parnell. “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, a Army veteran, author, and Fox News contributor who lives in Sewickley, had been seeking primary custody of the children, but his case was rejected. Senior Judge James Arner ruled in Snell’s favor. Parnell will have partial physical custody of the three children three weekends a month.
The custody case garnered national attention when, in her sworn testimony, Snell alleged that Parnell once choked her, physically struck their children, and screamed at her and told her to get an abortion early in their relationship.
In his sworn testimony, Parnell vehemently denied these allegations, and said his relationship with his children was happy and loving. He also claimed that Snell was the one who was physical with him.
But Judge Arner ultimately sided with Snell, said he found that Parnell committed some acts of abuse in the past, and is “not making a finding on specifically what did or did not happen.” Arner added that the said incidents were long ago in the past, and did not involve Parnell’s and Snell’s children, but Arner said they are not relevant to the custody decision.
Arner added there is no evidence that Snell committed abuse, and the children have not expressed concern for their safety. Ultimately, Arner granted custody to Snell, but wrote in his decision that “both parents are equally capable of providing adequate physical safeguards and supervision."
Parnell has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump
and was considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania's Senate seat, which is left open by incumbent Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh), who is retiring and not seeking re-election
There are several other candidates for the open Senate seat, including many on the Republican side, including business owner Jeff Bartos
(R-Montgomery), political commentator Kathy Barnette (R-Montgomery), former Montgomery County Commission candidate Sean Gale (R-Montgomery), former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands (R-Cumberland), and businessman Everett Stern (R-Philadelphia).
Even before Parnell’s apparent campaign suspension, additional candidates had been rumored to have interest in the Senate race, a sign that Parnell might not be long for the campaign. One of those rumored included former U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, a lawyer from Sewickley. Another rumored candidate is Mehmet Oz, host of the Dr. Oz
television show, even though its unclear how strong his ties are to Pennsylvania and his primary residence is in New Jersey.
Parnell has drawn controversy even before he announced his bid for the Senate. First reported by Pittsburgh City Paper
, in a September 2019 appearance on a Fox News program, Parnell said he thinks that progress in women’s rights is “nonsense.”
“The idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to be successful, the idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to have a baby, the idea that a woman can live a happy and fulfilling life without a man, I think it’s all nonsense,” said Parnell in 2019. (He later claimed on social media that he was joking, but only after City Paper
reached out to him for a comment about the Fox News appearance.)
His comments on women were revealed during his unsuccessful bid for U.S. House against incumbent U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon). After losing that race, which he never conceded, Parnell successfully sued the commonwealth over its mail-in voting law, even though, earlier in that year, he voiced support for voters using mail-in ballots
. His suit was thrown out by the courts. Even so, he supported a controversial election audit of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election, after initially saying he didn’t.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party said that Parnell’s campaign suspension will just further an already chaotic Republican Senate primary election.
“Today’s developments will only throw Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary into further chaos,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Jack Doyle in a statement. “The vicious infighting amongst the GOP Senate candidates in this race is sure to intensify, and by the time this GOP primary is over voters will have seen why no Republican candidate can be trusted to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate.”