Republican Senate Candidat Sean Parnell (left) at the Butler County Courthouse, for the second Day of his Child Custody Trial on Nov. 8.
Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

Trump-lane RepublicansThey may want an exit ramp from the Senator in Pennsylvania they have selected.

Ex-President Donald Trump’s favored candidate in the 2022 GOP primary, retired Army Ranger Sean Parnell, is facing abuse allegations leveled by his estranged wife in a contentious custody battle for their three children.

As Parnell awaits a judge’s ruling in the case — which played out publicly earlier this month — Republicans are floating additions to an already crowded field competing to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, including the CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund and a celebrity doctor.

The uncertain situation in a premiere battleground underscores the potential fallout from an early Trump endorsement in a state that Republicans can’t afford to lose in the midterm elections.

Parnell’s court proceedings coincided with the announcement by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu Tuesday that he won’t run for SenateRepublicans were deprived of the most highly-sought-after candidate in another state’s top-tier. The two developments, coming in the same week, were unwelcome blows for a party that’s expected to have a strong chance at taking back the Senate in 2022.

Parnell is a former political candidate who ran in the 2020 House race. He was a first-time contender. He has been mired in his divorcing and custody battles for much of his candidacy. It will be difficult to overturn the specific abuse charges in the Republican primary or the general election against a Democrat.

“He’s not had an effective response besides just saying that it didn’t happen,” said Christopher Nicholas, a veteran GOP consultant in Pennsylvania.

Another veteran GOP strategist, who asked not to be named due to close ties to Parnell’s advisers, called it “top to bottom, the biggest free fall ever.”

“There’s a huge amount of negativity about Parnell right now,” that person said. “People think he’s bleeding out. They think he can’t win. There’s nothing that impressive about him. He lost a congressional race. He’s never been on the [statewide]You have already voted. I don’t think Trump’s endorsement is intimidating anybody right now.”

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Sean Parnell was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Sean Parnell, the Pennsylvania Senate Candidate.
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Earlier this month, in Pittsburg-area family court, Parnell’s estranged wife, Laurie Snell, testified that Parnell physically and emotionally abused her and, in two instances, their children, now ages 8 to 12. Following their 2018 divorce, she is seeking full custody.

Snell claimed that her husband had choked and held her in a coma during rageful fits. He was also verbally abusive.

“It just wasn’t a good relationship,” Parnell testifiedIn an intense and emotional trial covered extensively in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Snell alleged that Parnell once kicked her out of a car along the highway when she was pregnant with their first child and screamed at her to “go get an abortion,” according to the Inquirer. In two separate instances, she accused him of physically harming their children: once striking a child and leaving a handprint welt, and another time punching a closed door, causing it to swing into a child’s face, the outlet reported.

Parnell proved that he refuted all of the episodes. Under oath, Parnell stated that a photograph of a child leaving a mark on his hand was not the one he had taken, and that the child in another instance had entered the house.

At the trial’s conclusion on Tuesday, Parnell’s campaign issued a statement to media outlets that he didn’t have anything more to say until the judge’s ruling.

“The past week has been unquestionably the most trying in my young family’s life. Being their dad is the most honoring thing I’ve ever done. I love my children. Now that I have had the opportunity to present my case I will not have anything further to say until the judge issues his ruling,” Parnell said in the statement.

His campaign did not reply to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

Parnell’s advisers told PoliticoThe team is optimistic that he will remain viable in the race as long as he has custody of his children. Trump’s team is still publicly backing Parnell and is planning a January fundraiserMar-a-Lago Club Palm Beach, Florida

Parnell remains silent while Pennsylvania Republicans press other potential frontrunners into the race. David McCormick is the CEO at Bridgewater Associates in Connecticut, and is one of many potential frontrunners. Republicans quoted in Politico compared McCormick, a West Point graduate and official in George W. Bush’s Treasury Department, to Glenn Youngkin, the governor-elect in Virginia and an example of a Republican achieving success while keeping Trump at arm’s length.

This week the Washington Free BeaconAccording to reports, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV personality and celebrity surgeon was currently hiring personnel and preparing for a potential campaign launch. Oz was a regular on Fox News during the initial days of the pandemic. dubious COVID-19 treatmentsTrump later promoted misinformation.

Celebrity surgeon and TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz is reportedly considering running for Senate in Pennsylvania's GOP primary.
The celebrity surgeon, TV personality and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz is reported to be considering running for Senate in Pennsylvania’s GOP Primary.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Pennsylvania was a swing state and broke for President Joe Biden. The Senate race in Pennsylvania is already packed on both sides with more than two dozen candidates.

Val Arkoosh (Lt. Governor) is a Montgomery County doctor. John Fetterman and Conor Lamb are state representatives Malcolm Kenyatta and John Fetterman. Parnell, a former House candidate Kathy Barnette and real estate developer Jeff Bartos are running on the Republican side. Carla Sands is the Ambassador to Denmark.

Sands was an American who served under Trump has played up her ties to the former president, but doesn’t have his official endorsement.

The fact that Republicans still seek potential candidates indicates to some members of the GOP the weaknesses in the current field, particularly given Parnell’s accusations.

“That is clearly an indictment of Sean Parnell and Carla Sands that they’re still looking for a candidate that’s more in the Trump wing of the party,” Nicholas said, referring to McCormick and Oz.

To date, no prominent Republicans have called on Parnell to drop out, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or wise for him to stay in, strategists said.

“The challenge for him is not what the outside world thinks, but: Are your staffers going to keep working for you? Do you expect your consultants to continue working for you? Your funders, too? So you can say you’re in the race, but then then nobody wants to work for you and nobody returns your calls,” Nicholas said.

And of course, the accusations against Parnell haven’t gone unnoticed by his opponents. Snell requested temporary abuse protection orders in 2017 and 2018, though it wasn’t clear publicly at the time what Parnell was accused of doing and both orders were later expunged, the Inquirer reported. That didn’t stop a pro-Bartos super PAC from using them in an attack adParnell was painted as being anti-women by this group.

“Sean’s actions and attitude toward women are disturbing, well-documented, and disqualifying,” Bartos toldThe Inquirer September.

These are just a few of the other GOP Senate hopefuls accused of domestic or sexual abuse. Georgia: The ex-wife Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Herschel, the football star and GOP front-runner, charged him with threatening and abusive behavior in divorce records. Former Missouri Governor After being charged with sexual assault, Eric Greitens was another Senate candidate.

According to The Associated Press, more than one third of women and four out of five men have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Parnell quickly became a favorite Republican nominee. A decorated war vet who led an Afghan platoon and published a memoir about the experience before becoming a regular on Fox News, Parnell immediately stood out.

“They do have to have someone who’s going to appeal to a broader demographic, but that broader demographic may already be open to voting for Republicans. You can’t have a hardcore conservative. You can’t have a Josh Mandel,” said Keith Naughton, a longtime GOP strategist in Pennsylvania, referring to a far-right candidate for Senate in Ohio. “But you don’t have to have someone who’s right at that median voter point.”

Justin Barasky, a Democratic strategist and former staffer for the party’s Senate campaign arm, said Parnell is a fundamentally flawed candidate in the mold of other Republicans trying to model themselves on Trump, who has himself repeatedly been accused of sexual misconduct.

“These are the types of candidates they’re running because there’s no room for sanity in the Republican Party anymore. And almost to a person, in race after race where Republicans have primaries, the only thing that any of these people care about is fealty to Trump,” he said.


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