HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Former President Donald Trump-backed candidate Sean Parnell for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania suspended his campaign on Monday after losing a court battle for custody of his three children in which the judge claimed said he believed in allegations of abuse by Parnell’s ex-wife.
In a statement, Parnell said he was devastated by the judge’s decision and planned to ask the judge to reconsider, but could not continue his campaign.
The high-stakes campaign in Battlefield State could help determine control of the US Senate in next year’s election.
The decision by a Butler County judge came two weeks after Parnell spoke up to deny his ex-wife’s claims that he had injured her and the children.
Judge James Arner wrote in an order on Monday that Parnell’s ex-wife Laurie Snell would have sole legal custody of school-aged children, as well as primary physical custody. Parnell will have physical custody three weekends a month, Arner wrote.
Snell was “the most credible witness,” Arner summed up in her 16-page opinion, saying she could remember and describe the details convincingly.
The Pennsylvania Senate seat opens with the 2023 retirement of two-term Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, and Republicans and Democrats have a wide range of candidates in this politically divided state.
Parnell’s withdrawal comes as many members of the state’s Republican Party remain undecided on their domain, including conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, real estate investor Jeff Bartos and Carla Sands, Trump’s ambassador to Denmark.
A suggestion from Mehmet Oz, cardiac surgeon and longtime host of the “Dr. Oz Show” TV show, who rose to prominence as Oprah Winfrey’s protégé – that he is encouraged to enter the primary republican.
Parnell’s withdrawal is a blow to Trump, who had enthusiastically backed Parnell in September with encouragement from his eldest son.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said Trump and Parnell spoke before Parnell’s announcement and Parnell informed Trump of his intention to suspend his campaign, given the decision.
He said on twitter that the Pennsylvania Senate race “remains a top priority” for the former president; and that “rallying our movement behind America 1st’s top candidate remains essential.”
Parnell’s candidacy was a constant presence in the case, with the judge noting in his opinion that Parnell argued that Snell “is motivated to embarrass him in public and harm his political career,” while Snell argued that Parnell “is motivated to preserve a public image and his political career.
Snell testified about the years of rage and abuse suffered by Parnell, including once when he choked her so hard she had to bite him to get free and another time when he slapped her in the face. one of their children strong enough to leave marks on the back of the child’s shirt. .
Rather, he found Parnell’s testimony “less credible,” claiming Parnell was “somewhat elusive” and simply denied Snell’s claims.
“Upon reviewing the credible evidence, I find that Sean Parnell has committed acts of abuse in the past” against Snell, Arner wrote. He also believed Parnell slapped the child in the face, as Snell testified, Arner wrote.
But, he wrote, the fact that Snell had agreed in the past that Parnell could have substantial periods of unsupervised custody indicates that she does not view him as harming children.
Snell’s attorney, Jen Gilliland Vanasdale, said Snell “is grateful that justice has prevailed.”
Testifying under oath on November 8, Parnell denied Snell’s allegations, saying he had never strangled or cornered her and never hit any of their children in a fit of rage.
Snell and Parnell have been living apart for at least three years, but have shared custody of their children equally.
Parnell’s story with his wife became a topic of the Republican primary campaign, days after Trump’s approval.
Parnell, a decorated former Army Ranger who led a platoon in Afghanistan, wrote a memoir of his service in Afghanistan, which became a New York Times bestseller. He also wrote four action novels and became a regular guest on Fox News programs before running for Congress last year.
Trump’s approval came in early September, when Parnell was a much-requested guest on cable TV news shows and conservative podcasts to discuss the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan before the pullout. American forces.
Even amid the headlines about the custody case, Trump had backed his support for Parnell by scheduling a fundraiser with Donald Trump Jr. on January 25 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
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