Embattled Democrat Archie Parnell is staying in the race for the 5th District congressional seat after decades-old allegations of domestic violence rocked his campaign.
Parnell made the announcement in a video posted Wednesday to his Facebook page, the first time the Sumter Democrat directly has addressed the controversy since it emerged two weeks ago, costing him much of his support and campaign staff.
"After much prayer and thought, I have concluded I should stay in this race. I need to tell you why," Parnell says in the video.
"If I withdraw, I would not be fully facing my past," he says. "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."
In the video, Parnell admits he struck his ex-wife more than 40 years ago, before the couple's divorce. "I hit my ex-wife and another person in a state of rage," he said. "No excuse can justify what I did. I hurt her. I was wrong."
Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs financial adviser, was urged to drop out after the allegations of domestic violence were revealed.
The Post and Courier of Charleston obtained copies of Parnell's divorce records alleging he beat his wife in the 1970s. The allegations led some members of Parnell's campaign staffto quit.
Those staffers and other disappointed supporters were on Parnell's mind when he made the video.
"I also want to sincerely apologize to every volunteer, donor and supporter of our campaign, including campaign staff who stayed with the campaign and those who left the campaign," he said on the video.
The records show Parnell's ex-wife accused him of beating her in October 1973, causing her to fear for her life. She later obtained a restraining order against Parnell before their divorce was finalized in 1974.
"Forty-five years ago, while still a college student, I did something that I have regretted every single day since," Parnell told the Charleston paper in a statement, saying his "actions were inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing."
But Parnell said he wanted 5th District voters to decide whether he should be allowed to run for the congressional seat, "not me or certain Democratic Party officers," before going on to list the issues he still wants to campaign on.
Parnell credits his current wife, Sarah, to whom he has been married for 40 years, and two daughters with making him a better person, and apologizes to them along with his ex-wife for the public embarrassment this has brought them.
"I am not that same person now," he said.
The last post on Parnell's campaign page, prior to Wednesday, was one marking his anniversary with his wife on May 13.
Parnell had been considered a serious challenger to U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, in the 5th District race. Parnell lost to Norman by only 3 percentage points in a 2017 special election.
As of May 23, Parnell had raised $1.7 million for his congressional race, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, much of it before the domestic violence incident came to light.
Three other, less well-funded Democratic candidates — Mark Ali, Steve Lough and Sidney Moore — also are seeking the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat in next Tuesday's primary.