Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell on Monday dropped out of a race for a seat representing Pennsylvania.
Parnell, who narrowly lost to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) in 2020 for a U.S. House of Representatives seat, said the decision stemmed from a court ruling hours earlier that stripped him of primary custody of his children.
“I strongly disagree with the ruling today and I’m devastated by the decision,” Parnell said in a statement, adding that he plans on appealing.
“In the order, two of the leading factors that weighed heavily in the judge’s decision revolved around me being a leading U.S. Senate candidate. 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,” he 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.”
Parnell has been locked in a custody battle with his wife, Laurie Snell, who has accused him of abusing both her and the children.
Clarion County Judge James Arner said he found Snell’s testimony convincing because she “could remember and describe the specific incidents” while he found Parnell “somewhat evasive” and “less believable,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Arner said that Snell not opposing Parnell having shared custody, that at least three and-a-half years have gone by without incident, and that the children have not expressed concerns for their safety led him to rule that Parnell can share custody, including having unsupervised time with the children.
In a statement to news outlets, Snell’s legal team said she was “grateful that justice prevailed.”
Parnell was one of at least 27 candidates vying for a seat held by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is not running for re-election.
Top candidates on the Democrat side include Lamb, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, and physician Valerie Arkoosh.
Republican contenders include businesswoman Carla Sands, veteran Kathy Barnette, and developer Jeff Bartos.
Parnell was considered a frontrunner in some circles and had received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Bartos initially made protective orders issued against Parnell public, saying they showed that Parnell shouldn’t be in the race.
The Senate is currently divided 50-50, giving each seat in play added significance. Political handicappers have the race as a toss-up or leaning Republican.
The other senator representing the state is a Democrat. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) won with 55 percent of the vote in 2018, beating then- state Rep. Lou Barletta.