Archie Parnell

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Archie Parnell
Archie William Parnell Jr.

1950/1951 (age 68–69)[1]
ResidenceSumter, South Carolina, U.S.
EducationUniversity of South Carolina (BA)
University of South Carolina School of Law (JD)
Georgetown University (LLM)
OccupationTax attorney
EmployerJustice Department (1974–1976)
House Ways and Means Committee staff (1976–1980)
Exxon Mobil (1980–1990)
Coudert Brothers (1990–1996)
Goldman Sachs (1996–2016)
Political partyDemocratic

Archie William Parnell Jr. is an American attorney and politician. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for the June 20, 2017, special election for South Carolina's 5th congressional district of the United States House of Representatives. He narrowly lost the election to Republican Ralph Norman, receiving 47.9 percent of the vote in the general election,[2] an unexpectedly close margin.[3] Parnell challenged Norman again in the 2018 election to lose again having earned 41.5 percent of the vote.

Early life and education[edit]

Parnell grew up mostly in Sumter, South Carolina, where he currently resides.[1][4] His family also lived in several places including the U.K., Germany, and Florida, where his father Archie Parnell Sr. was stationed with U.S. Air Force. Parnell Jr. attended Willow Drive School through sixth grade and, after his family returned to Sumter,[5] graduated from Sumter High School.[6] He then attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor's degree and a law degree.[7]


He worked as a tax attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice[5] and for the House Ways & Means Committee.[7] While serving as senior staff counsel for the committee, he also wrote articles that were published in the Catholic University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal.[8][9]

Parnell later worked as a tax attorney for Exxon Mobil for ten years.[10] From 1996 to 2016, he worked for Goldman Sachs and was a managing director for the company’s Hong Kong office.[11][12][13] He retired from the position before declaring his intention to run for U.S. Congress.[10][14][15]

2017 election campaign[edit]

In March 2017, Parnell announced his candidacy for the position formerly held by Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who resigned from his congressional seat to become budget director on Trump administration.[7] Parnell was new to politics but was the first Democrat to announce his candidacy for the 5th District seat.[7][16] By the time he entered the race, seven Republicans had also announced their candidacy for the district that is increasingly leaning towards the conservative party and a Republican was first elected in 2011 when a Democrat, John Spratt, who had held the seat for a long time lost to Mulvaney.[7]

Two other Democratic candidates also entered the race: Alexis Frank and Les Murphy.[17][18] Spratt endorsed Parnell in the Democratic primary held on May 2, 2017.[18] He also gained the endorsement of other Democrats in the state including Jim Hodges, formerly the Governor of South Carolina.[19] Parnell won the primary with 71.3% of the vote to become the democratic nominee.[20]

A number of television advertisements of Parnell's drew national media notice. In it, he imitated the fictional character Frank Underwood, who represents what appears to be the South Carolina 5th district in the television show House of Cards.[21][22] Although Parnell's own internal polls predicted that he was 10 percentage points behind his Republican opponent, Ralph Norman,[22] Parnell lost the June 20 election by a small margin, earning 47.9% percent of the votes to Norman's 51.1%.[2] Fewer than 3,000 votes separated the two candidates.[23] A Politico analysis attributed Parnell's relatively high vote percentage, given the district and the special election timing, to his humble, positive, and funny ad messages, and his avoidance of standard partisan conflicts and rhetoric. Parnell spent approximately $500,000 on his campaign through the end of May 2017. In addition to his unique advertising and campaign strategy, his close margin has been attributed, in part, to low Republican turnout.[13]

2018 election campaign[edit]

On October 9, 2017, Parnell announced that he would challenge Norman for a full term in the regular 2018 election.[24] He again released a humorous campaign ad that gained national attention. In the ad, he was depicted getting a tattoo, receiving a haircut at a local barbershop, and playing Go Fish with Congressman Jim Clyburn.[24][25][26] In January 2018, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the election in the 5th district to its "Majority Maker district" list which the political party was targeting with the hope of gaining towards a majority in the 116th United States Congress.[27]

On May 21, 2018, an article in Charleston's Post and Courier revealed the discovery of court documents from Parnell's previously undisclosed 1973 divorce.[28][29] Parnell's wife was granted a restraining order and a divorce "on the ground of physical cruelty." No charges were filed. Parnell did not challenge the statements at the time or after their 2018 discovery.[30] After the news story broke, some of Parnell's campaign staff quit,[31][32] and South Carolina Democratic Party officials called on Parnell to withdraw from the race.[30]

Parnell chose to remain in the race.[28] On June 12, 2018, he won a four-way Democratic primary with approximately 60% of the vote.[33] He lost to Norman in the general election, taking 41.5 percent of the votes to his opponent's 57.1 percent.[34]


  1. ^ a b Marans, Daniel (May 2, 2017). "Archie Parnell Wins Democratic Primary In Race To Flip South Carolina District". HuffPost. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Election Results: Republican Wins U.S. House Seat in South Carolina". The New York Times. June 21, 2017. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  3. ^ Golshan, Tara (June 21, 2017). "Last night's South Carolina special election is a danger sign for House Republicans". Vox. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Mills, Bruce (August 12, 2018). "Sumter's Parnell takes steps forward in District 5 race". The Sumter Item. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Hilley, Jim (June 9, 2017). "5th Congressional candidate returned to his Sumter roots". The Sumter Item. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Hilley, Jim (May 24, 2017). "Parnell: I've come full circle". The Sumter Item. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wilks, Avery G.; Cope, Cassie (March 3, 2017). "Sumter Democrat to enter 5th District race". The State. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  8. ^ Parnell, Archie (1979). "Constitutional Considerations of Federal Control Over the Sovereign Taxing Authority of the States". Catholic University Law Review. 28 (2): 227–252.
  9. ^ Parnell, Archie (1980). "Congressional Interference in Agency Enforcement: The IRS Experience". Yale Law Review. 89 (7): 1360–1396.
  10. ^ a b Stein, Jeff (May 2, 2017). "This open House seat may be Democrats' best shot at special election victory". Vox. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  11. ^ Robillard, Kevin (May 2, 2017). "Democrat gets head start in deep-red special election to replace Mulvaney". Politico. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  12. ^ Weigel, Dave (June 21, 2017). "In South Carolina special election, Democrats try for another GOP House seat". Washington Post.
  13. ^ a b Scher, Bill (June 21, 2017). "How Archie Parnell Ran the Best Democratic Campaign of 2017". Politico. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  14. ^ Lovegrove, Jamie (July 16, 2018). "Mark Sanford left more than $1.5M unspent, while Archie Parnell kicks in personal cash". The Post and Courier. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  15. ^ Abelson, Max (June 19, 2017). "Vote for Goldman: America's Next Top Party". Bloomberg. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  16. ^ Brown, Andrew; Prabhu, Maya T. (June 20, 2017). "Republican Ralph Norman wins South Carolina 5th Congressional District special election". The Post and Courier. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Marchant, Bristow (March 10, 2017). "In SC Congress race, Goldman Sachs executive faces student". The State. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Marchant, Bristow (March 20, 2017). "5th District candidate receives endorsement of former congressman". The State. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  19. ^ Taylor, Jessica (April 15, 2017). "GOP Infighting Over Health Care Spills Onto Campaign Trail". NPR. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  20. ^ Hook, Janet (May 3, 2017). "Democrats Look for Opportunity in South Carolina House Race". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  21. ^ Emily Tillett. Archie Parnell, South Carolina Democrat, channels Frank Underwood in campaign ad. CBS News, May 31, 2017
  22. ^ a b Morrill, Jim (June 15, 2017). "Democrats smell victory in one House race. So why not South Carolina's?". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  23. ^ Byrd, Caitlin (January 27, 2018). "Why Democrat Archie Parnell may have a chance in a Republican South Carolina congressional district". The Post and Courier. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  24. ^ a b Kropf, Schuyler (October 9, 2017). "Sumter Democrat Archie Parnell running for Congress again vs. Republican Ralph Norman". The Post and Courier. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  25. ^ Jones, Hayley (October 9, 2017). "The King of Campaign Ads, Archie Parnell, Is Back with a 2018 Bid Announcement". Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  26. ^ Marans, Daniel (October 9, 2017). "South Carolina Democrat Kicks Off Second Congressional Bid With Self-Deprecating Video". HuffPost Canada. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  27. ^ Byrd, Caitlin (January 27, 2018). "Why Democrat Archie Parnell may have a chance in a Republican South Carolina congressional district". The Post and Courier. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  28. ^ a b Lovegrove, Jamie (May 21, 2018). "Top South Carolina candidate refuses to quit congressional race after abuse discovery". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  29. ^ "Archie Parnell divorce court documents". Post and Courier. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  30. ^ a b Kinnard, Meg (June 6, 2018). "House hopeful still in race despite 1973 domestic violence". Associated Press. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  31. ^ Andrews, Becca (June 8, 2018). "This South Carolina primary will test whether Democrats are willing to overlook domestic violence". Mother Jones. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  32. ^ Marchant, Bristow (June 6, 2018). "Despite domestic violence accusation, embattled SC Democrat to stay in US House race". The State. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  33. ^ Mills, Bruce (June 15, 2018). "Sumter native Parnell regrouping for 5th District November general election". The Sumter Item. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  34. ^ "Rep. Ralph Norman wins South Carolina's 5th Congressional District seat". The Washington Post. Associated Press. April 8, 2019. Retrieved October 8, 2019.

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