Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania Senate candidate suspends campaign after losing custody battle

·Senior Writer
·3 min read

Sean Parnell, the Republican endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the 2022 Pennsylvania Senate race, is suspending his campaign after losing a custody battle.

Politico reported Monday afternoon that Parnell had informed Trump of his decision. Earlier in the day, a Butler County judge ruled in favor of Parnell’s estranged wife in what had been an ugly custody case between the two. The judge, James Asner, said he had concluded that Parnell’s wife was the “more credible witness” of the pair and that Parnell, the early favorite for the GOP nomination, had committed “some acts of abuse in the past.”

Asner said, however, that he did not believe Parnell had been abusive in the past three and a half years and that both parents were “equally capable of providing adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the children.”

Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate Sean Parnell speaks ahead of a campaign rally for then-President Donald Trump on Sept. 22, 2020, in Moon Township, Pa.
Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate Sean Parnell speaks at a campaign rally for then-President Donald Trump in 2020. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

The Pennsylvania Senate race is expected to be among the most hard-fought of the 2022 cycle, and both parties have crowded primaries in the race to replace Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is retiring. Trump endorsed Parnell, a former U.S. Army Ranger who lost a tight Pittsburgh-area House race in 2020, earlier this year, calling him a “great candidate” who “will make Pennsylvania very proud.”

During testimony in the custody case, Parnell's wife, Laurie Snell, said her estranged husband “tried to choke me out on a couch, and I literally had to bite him,” and that he called her a “whore” and told her to “go get an abortion.” Parnell testified that her comments were “complete fabrications” and “flat-out lies,” saying he “never” strangled or got physical with her.

“Let me emphatically state: I have never raised a hand in anger towards my wife or any of our three children,” Parnell said in a statement after Snell’s testimony. “What happened today in court was not justice, nor did it have any basis in fact or truth.”

Other Republicans in the race include Jeff Bartos, a Philadelphia-area real estate investor who has served as the state party’s finance chair and unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, and Carla Sands, who served as Trump's ambassador to Denmark and was one of his key fundraisers in California before recently relocating back to Pennsylvania. Some Keystone State Republicans are trying to recruit David McCormick, a combat veteran and hedge fund executive who served in former President George W. Bush’s Treasury Department, to enter the race.

Another potential candidate is Dr. Mehmet Oz, television’s “Dr. Oz,” who rose to prominence via guest appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s show before getting his own series. The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative outlet, reported earlier this month that Oz had “begun hiring a staff and reaching out to potential allies.” Politico confirmed his interest last week, writing that Oz was “searching for a scheduler and policy director” as well as “a home in the Philadelphia suburbs.”

Mehmet Oz, host of the
Mehmet Oz, host of the "Dr. Oz" show and professor of surgery at Columbia University. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The current Democratic frontrunner in both fundraising and name recognition is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who rose to national prominence defending the 2020 election results and cuts a unique figure — tall, bald, goateed and eschewing suits whenever possible. Rep. Conor Lamb, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners chair Valerie Arkoosh and state legislator Malcolm Kenyatta are among the other Democrats vying for the nomination.

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