Senate candidate reveals Trump-endorsed primary rival's wife sought protective order

The Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary took a bitter and personal turn Wednesday when businessman Jeff Bartos released protective orders sought by the wife of Sean Parnell, his Trump-backed primary rival.

Bartos’s campaign blasted out a memo that includes copies of two temporary protection-from-abuse orders issued against Parnell in 2017 and 2018. Neither of the two orders were extended following a hearing including both Parnell and his wife, and both were ultimately expunged. 

The two orders were served by Butler County officials on July 5, 2017, and June 8, 2018, and resulted in Parnell forfeiting his guns. He was also ordered to leave his home in the 2017 incident.

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The 2017 order was withdrawn after 13 days under an agreement between Parnell and his wife. A judge denied a permanent protection order in the 2018 case.

Separately from the documents released by Bartos’s campaign, Parnell also sought a protection order against his wife on the same day his wife’s 2018 order was issued against him.

Parnell and his wife are in the midst of getting divorced. It is still unclear precisely what Parnell was accused of doing that led to the temporary protection-from-abuse orders. 

Along with the orders Bartos released, his campaign also highlighted disparaging comments Parnell made about women in 2019 on Fox Nation, including in response to a study about low marriage rates.

“The idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to be successful, the idea that a woman doesn’t need a man to have a baby, the idea that a woman can live a happy and fulfilling life without a man, I think it’s all nonsense,” he said

Parnell dismissed criticism of those comments at the time, saying he wants his daughter “to grow up to be strong and independent and I believe ALL women should have the same opportunities as men.”

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In the memo, Bartos’s campaign said the revelations raised questions about Parnell’s electability in a race against a Democrat in November 2022. 

“Sean Parnell’s disturbing history with women makes him unelectable. Parnell will eliminate Republicans' chances to hold this seat. There is too much at stake to let someone with a history of domestic abuse represent the Republican Party in this race, a must-win in our bid to take back the Senate,” the memo said.

Parnell fired back, saying in a statement to The Hill that the opposition research dump was “the last gasp of a campaign on life support.”

“Jeff Bartos is a desperate liar, plain and simple,” Parnell said. “Bartos’ allegations are horrific lies and all the evidence proves it. Not only does he know full well that these allegations are provably false, but his willingness to spread these lies without any consideration for the damage he’s doing to my three young kids is utterly disgusting. It takes a truly dishonorable ‘man’ to stoop this low just to score a few cheap political points.” 

"He should be ashamed of himself. This is gutter level politics at its worst and nothing more than the last gasp of a campaign on life support. If Jeff’s lies only affected me it would be easy to ignore them, but they don’t. Unfortunately, Jeff’s lies hurt my three kids and that’s unforgivable. Jeff needs to do the honorable thing. He needs to apologize to my family and withdraw from the race.”

The dump from Bartos comes just days after Parnell won the endorsement of former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE, setting him up as an early front-runner in the primary. 

Parnell and Bartos are the two most prominent Republicans running for the chance to replace retiring Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R) next year. Rep. Conor Lamb (D) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) are the highest-profile Democrats vying for the seat.