Sean Parnell suspends Pennsylvania Senate bid

Republican Sean Parnell is suspending his Senate campaign after losing a legal battle for primary custody of his three children.

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, Parnell said he was “devastated” by the decision in the custody case and insisted that he would ask the court to reconsider. He said that his Senate campaign weighed heavily on the ruling, which hands primary physical custody and sole legal custody of his children to his estranged wife Laurie Snell.  

“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,” Parnell said. “My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them. Thank you.”

Parnell, a retired Army Ranger who narrowly lost a U.S. House race last year, was among several candidates vying for the GOP nomination to succeed 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-Pa.) next year. Parnell emerged as the likely frontrunner in the primary after winning the endorsement of former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE.

In recent months, however, the GOP primary had come to focus on Parnell’s ongoing divorce and child custody proceedings.

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One of Parnell’s Republican rivals, real estate developer Jeff Bartos, revealed in September that Snell had sought protective orders against Parnell in 2017 and 2018, though both orders were eventually expunged. Then, earlier this month, Snell testified under oath that Parnell had physically and verbally abused her.

Parnell forcefully denied those allegations and accused Snell of lying to damage his political career. Still, in an order made public on Monday, the judge overseeing the custody case said that he believed Snell was a more credible witness.

The judge also wrote that “availability” to care for the couple’s children weighed on his decision to grant Snell primary custody, noting Parnell’s frequent travel as part of his Senate campaign.

Parnell and Snell separated in 2018. The couple has three children, ages 12, 11 and 8. Parnell will be able to have the children for three weekends a month.

Politico reported on Monday that Parnell had called Trump to tell him of his decision to suspend his campaign.