With assault case pending against her own colleague, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says Archie Parnell "deserves a second chance"

"This dumping of Archie Parnell seems to be selective."


  • Parnell campaign YouTube
Orangeburg state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter congratulated Archie Parnell on his primary victory in South Carolina's 5th Congressional District in a tweet early Wednesday morning, lending her credibility as a 26-year Statehouse veteran to a candidate abandoned by his own staff, party, and notable supporters after recently obtained divorce records revealed he physically abused his ex-wife.

Cobb-Hunter's public support comes as she waits to take her allegations of physical assault against fellow Orangeburg Rep. Jerry Govan to court on July 16.

According to an arrest warrant detailing a May 2017 incident, "[Govan] did approach [Cobb-Hunter] yelling at her 'Don't put words in my mouth,' which made the victim extend her arm out to keep Mr. Govan from getting any closer to her." 

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (center) introduces former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a S.C. Democratic Women's Council event in 2015 - C-SPAN
  • C-Span
  • Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (center) introduces former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a S.C. Democratic Women's Council event in 2015

"Mr. Govan then grabbed the right wrist area and twisted, causing [Cobb-Hunter] to also fall back," the warrant continues.

Despite her recent personal experience, Cobb-Hunter cites Parnell's policy positions as the main reason why she's standing behind him.

"I am supporting Archie Parnell because I think he’d make an excellent congressman," she said in a phone interview Thursday with the City Paper. "He's right on the issues that are important to me: Medicaid expansion, the whole notion of quality education for all kids."

Parnell's divorce records, obtained by the Post & Courier, recount an incident that took place at 2 a.m. on October 21, 1973. After friends locked Parnell out of their apartment out of concern for his wife's safety, Parnell forced his way in by breaking a glass door with a tire iron, according to documents. He then repeatedly hit his wife "with such force as to cause her acute physical injury."

Parnell still won Tuesday's primary against three other candidates with close to 60 percent of the vote.

"I think it’s important to me, as somebody who has spent 40 years doing this work, to state my support for [Parnell], because I think context matter," Cobb-Hunter said.

Citing her experience advocating on behalf of domestic violence victims, she continued, "My point is this: We have to make a distinction, in my view, between a one-time incident that happened 45 years ago as opposed to a person who has demonstrated a pattern of violence and abuse over years."

In 2004, Govan was removed from a S.C. House committee after staffers had to separate him from a fellow lawmaker during a physical confrontation. Aside from Cobb Hunter's allegations of physical assault against Govan, records obtained by CP earlier this year show that Govan was quietly cleared of harassment after a staffer complained of unwanted hugs last year.

Govan won Tuesday night's primary for his state House seat, which he has held for 25 years, with almost 68 percent of the vote.

After Parnell's divorce records came to light in May, condemnation of his candidacy was swift. High-profile endorsements withdrew their support and national party backers walked away.

Campaign manager Yates Baroody resigned immediately after confronting her boss about the incident, and S.C. Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson said that Parnell had "no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which funds Democrats nationwide, announced they would not support Parnell's race.

"No, we won't invest in his campaign," said DCCC communications director Meredith Kelly.

For Cobb-Hunter, these actions highlight the inequality in how her party responds to allegations brought forth by different women.

"I just find it interesting that this dumping of Archie Parnell seems to be selective," Cobb-Hunter said. "And I’d love to see the leadership of the Democratic Party be consistent in the pearl-clutching that it does on the issue of violence against women."

She says Parnell called to thank her after her tweet.

"I do plan to meet with him to talk about this and how we use this to further educate people about the issue," she said.

Parnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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