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(*This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, 11/22/21, to note that Sean Parnell has suspended his U.S. Senate campaign.)
After losing a publicly waged child custody bid on Monday, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump has suspended his campaign.
In a statement, GOP hopeful Sean Parnell said his “focus right now is 100 percent on my children,” after a Butler County judge awarded sole custody of his three children, ages 12, 11, and 8, to his estranged wife, Laurie Snell.
“I strongly disagree with the ruling today, and I’m devastated by the decision,” Parnell said in a written statement, saying that he plans to ask a Butler County court to reverse Judge James Arner’s decision.
He added: “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. My focus right now is 100 percent on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them.”
Arner deemed Snell a more credible witness in the custody battle. During a three-day hearing earlier this month, Snell testified that Parnell abused her and their kids. Parnell, who denied the allegations, will have partial custody.
“Ms. Snell is grateful that justice prevailed,” Jennifer Gilliland Vanasdale, an attorney for Snell, wrote in a statement on Monday. “She has been awarded sole legal and primary custody of their children. She will continue, as always, to focus on their best interests.”
Still legally married, Parnell and Snell have been separated for at least three years, and have been fighting over custody of their three children. Their relationship garnered national attention after he secured an endorsement from the former president.
In court, Snell testified that Parnell choked her and injured their children. She said Parnell left her on the side of the highway while pregnant with their first child and that he often flew into fits of rage. Parnell denied the allegations, saying that Snell was telling “flat-out lies,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Despite the allegations against Parnell, Republican Party leaders have dodged questions about his candidacy. Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, refused to comment on whether Parnell is “the right candidate” to fill Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2022 during an interview with CNN.
“I’m not supporting or opposing people in primaries,” Scott said. “I’m the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. I’m going to help our incumbents, help our Republicans who get through the primaries. That’s what my focus is. The voters of each of the states will decide who is the right candidates on the Republican and Democrat side are.”
Trump was planning to host a fundraiser for Parnell in January at Mar-a-Lago.
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