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In reversal, SC’s Clyburn re-embracing embattled candidate

October 30, 2018 GMT
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FILE - In a Thursday, July 28, 2016 file photo, Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Despite having called on him to withdraw following the revelation of decades-old domestic violence, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s lone congressional Democrat is now embracing Archie Parnell’s candidacy again. Parnell’s campaign tells The Associated Press that Clyburn will join the 5th District nominee for a fish fry in Sumter the night before the Nov. 6 general election.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
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FILE - In a Thursday, July 28, 2016 file photo, Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Despite having called on him to withdraw following the revelation of decades-old domestic violence, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s lone congressional Democrat is now embracing Archie Parnell’s candidacy again. Parnell’s campaign tells The Associated Press that Clyburn will join the 5th District nominee for a fish fry in Sumter the night before the Nov. 6 general election.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Despite having called on him to withdraw following the revelation of decades-old domestic violence, South Carolina’s lone congressional Democrat is now re-embracing Archie Parnell’s candidacy.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn will join the 5th District nominee for a fish fry in Sumter the night before the Nov. 6 general election, Parnell’s campaign said Tuesday. Parnell is seeking to unseat Republican Rep. Ralph Norman from the district that spans 11 counties in South Carolina’s northern and central areas.

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The move comes in stark contrast to Clyburn’s initial reaction, which he’s since reiterated, after seemingly denying it to McClatchy news, following Parnell’s admission earlier this year that, more than 40 years ago, he had assaulted his ex-wife.

According to his 1973 divorce records unearthed by The Post and Courier of Charleston, Parnell used a tire iron to shatter a glass door, then his fists to pummel his wife. When the details were first reported this spring, Parnell called his behavior “inexcusable, wrong and downright embarrassing,” saying he had made significant personal changes.

In an article this spring about Parnell’s decades-old divorce details, Clyburn told the paper, “Due to the unfortunate circumstances recently revealed, I hereby urge Archie Parnell to end his campaign.” That’s the same statement Clyburn tweeted from his campaign account around the same time.

In July, Clyburn told McClatchy he had “never urged” Parnell to drop out. But asked for his take on Parnell a few weeks ago, a spokesman for the longtime congressman reiterated to The Associated Press that Clyburn, indeed, stood by his earlier calls for Parnell to withdraw from the campaign.

Other Democratic figures who initially called on Parnell to withdraw, including state party Chairman Trav Robertson, have subsequently warmed to his candidacy, some citing his handy defeat of rivals in the June primary election. Two weeks ago, Robertson told AP , “Archie Parnell has won his primary and the voters of the 5th District have spoken.”

Clyburn’s reversal leaves Mary Geren, the sole female Democrat running for Congress in South Carolina this year, in opposition to Parnell’s bid. Earlier this month, she told AP that while she believed in the ability to learn from one’s mistakes, she would in no way support his candidacy.

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“From the beginning of the special election forward, Archie should have been transparent with his team, supporters, and the voters about his past,” she said. “I have not endorsed him and don’t intend to.”

The campaign of Joe Cunningham, a Democrat who’s been gaining traction in the 1st District currently held by U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, refused to comment on whether or not he supports Parnell. Cunningham had previously weighed in on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, saying in a video: “To the politicians in both parties and to the men across America: Treat women with respect, call out those who don’t, and teach your sons to do the same.”

When asked about Parnell, Cunningham said only, through a spokesman, “There’s only one race we’re focused on and that’s our own.” Sean Carrigan, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson in the 2nd District, said that, as Parnell’s ex-wife has reportedly forgiven him, “we should not stand in the way of their healing.”

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Meg Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP .

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