GOP Senate Candidate Sean Parnell Suspends Campaign After Lost Custody Battle, Abuse Allegations

(Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

Pennsylvania Republican Sean Parnell suspended his Senate campaign Monday in the wake of a judge’s ruling that granted sole legal custody to his estranged wife.

The order, issued by Judge James Arner on Nov. 16 and made public Monday, grants Laurie Snell primary physical custody of the couple’s three children, according to the Philagelphia Inquirer. Parnell will be allowed visitation rights three weekends a month, although he had previously requested sole custody.

Laurie Snell testified in early November that Parnell physically abused her and their children, allegations that Parnell denied during his own testimony and in public statements.

“I strongly disagree with the ruling today and I’m devastated by the decision,” Parnell said in a statement. “In the order, two of the leading factors that weighed heavily on the judge’s decision revolved around me being a leading U.S. Senate candidate. There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can’t continue with a Senate campaign.”

Arner wrote that he was “not making a finding on specifically what did or did not happen” during the incidents Snell alleged, although he did “find that Sean Parnell did commit some acts of abuse in the past.” Since Snell agreed that Parnell could have “substantial periods of unsupervised custody … she does not view him as a threat of harm to the children,” Arner added.

“Ms. Snell is grateful that justice prevailed,” attorney Jennifer Gilliland Vanasdale said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “She has been awarded sole legal and primary physical custody of their children. She will continue, as always, to focus on their best interests.”

The abuse allegations against Parnell were first revealed by real estate developer Jeff Bartos, who is also running in the Republican Senate primary. Before the allegations were made public, Parnell was considered a heavy favorite for the Republican nomination for the seat. A Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, published author and Fox News contributor, he ran against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb for Lamb’s suburban Pittsburgh congressional seat in 2020, losing by two points. He was also endorsed by former President Donald Trump. (RELATED: Republican Sean Parnell, Army Veteran And Former Congressional Candidate, Announces Run For U.S. Senate In Pennsylvania)