On Saturday, Oct. 2, Sean Parnell spoke at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Parnell is a Republican candidate for one of Pennsylvania’s two seats in the United States Senate. The incumbent, Pat Toomey, announced in October of last year that he would not seek re-election.
Parnell is endorsed by former President Trump, Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri and others, according to press releases from Parnell’s campaign.. Toomey has not made a public endorsement in the race through any official channels.
According to Parnell’s campaign website, he was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. He is a veteran of the United States Army that saw combat in the Afghan war. During the event, he spoke about his experience in the military.
“I am an Afghanistan combat veteran … I joined the United States army after Sept. 11,” he said during his speech. “I watched the towers fall. Two days after that I went down to the recruiter [and] told the recruiter that I wanted to join the army.”
Parnell said that he served on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 485 days and gained leadership skills from his combat experience.
“During that time I feel like I learned a lot of profound leadership lessons as a young 24-year-old kid that have stuck with me ever since and sort of shaped the person that I became today.”
Parnell medically retired after being wounded in Afghanistan.
“I got blown up by a rocket propelled grenade, fractured my skull, had a pretty serious head injury. And I think that’s probably why I am running for political office right now actually,” he said.
After leaving the military, Parnell founded the American Warrior Initiative, which aids veterans by teaching the public how to better aid veterans.
If elected, Parnell says that he will only serve for one or two terms before leaving and will seek to limit the power of the federal government. He also said that he will protect constitutional rights and vote to ban critical race theory in schools and the military.
Federal Debt and Deficit
One of Parnell’s priorities is addressing the federal debt and deficit. In an interview after his speech, Parnell said that mandatory spending programs, which he says take up 75% of the budget, are contributing to the debt and deficit.
“I come into this principally speaking that the people here at this rally, and people that own businesses, they can’t run their household or businesses effectively if 75% of their budget can’t be touched,” he said in an interview following his speech. “It just so happens that 75% of those mandatory spending programs are talking about social security programs, medicare and medicaid, they continue to grow and expand. And expenses around those things continue to balloon.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, mandatory spending programs made up about 70% of the federal budget in 2020. According to the office’s 2021 projection, mandatory programs will make up approximately 72% of the budget.
Specifically, he said that he will address fraud in those programs if he wins the seat.
“The number one thing that we can do, I think the first step, is targeting fraud. There’s billions and billions of dollars in fraud in mandatory spending programs every single year,” he said. “I think that if we get tough on things like that, and we show those programs have to be accountable to somebody, we can just trim billions and billions of dollars right then and there, right from the get-go.”
During his speech, Parnell said that election security is a priority for Pennsylvania voters.
“The number one issue for Republicans and independents in this state is election security,” he said.
Parnell also stated that the best way to ensure that elections are secure is by electing the right judicial candidates.
“The best way to protect our elections, right, is to elect great judicial candidates up and down the ballot in 2021,” he said. “ In order to win in 2022, we have to win in 2021 first.”
In an interview afterward, Parnell said that he feels that America’s elections are “behind the times,” but he thinks that Pennsylvania is already addressing the problem.
“I think that there’s lots of things, pragmatic things that we can do to make them better, and more secure, and I think that we’re on our way to do that here in Pennsylvania,” he said. “I even think that there are many Democrats, perhaps not in Harrisburg in our government, but many Democrats here in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania that share those very same concerns about our election integrity.”
Parnell said that protecting the border is the main priority for his stance on immigration.
“I think that before you have any other conversation about what we do with people, immigrants here, we have to secure the border first. And you know, if that means building the wall, or adding more checkpoints,” he said. “Securing the border makes it safer for people that are coming here legally. It also provides a level of protection for border patrol agents, who do an incredibly dangerous job, and it also gives some structure to the process.”
During his speech, Parnell said that he would work to ban sanctuary cities, which he said are against the law.
According to a paper by the American Immigration Council, numerous courts have found that the federal statute 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which opponents of sanctuary cities say makes them illegal, is a violation of the authority of state and local government’s authority. The paper also states that the Department of Justice’s interpretation that the statute makes sanctuary cities illegal has been found to be incorrect by courts as well.
In Parnell’s opinion, the problem is a humanitarian issue. He pointed to the unsafe conditions for migrants, and he said that securing the border is key to solving the problem.
“It’s a humanitarian issue. It can’t simply be seen as a policy, an immigration policy discussion,” he said. “There’s a humanitarian crisis at the southern border, and the only way that we solve it is by securing the border.”
Path to Victory
Parnell said that his campaign differs from that of the other candidates because of his reasons for running. He said that other candidates in the race are running because they want the experience. Comparatively, his goal is to improve the country for everyone.
“This job means representing everybody,” Parnell said. “The people are always going to be my number one priority and advocating for them first, last and always. And I don’t think that I can say the same about the other primary candidates that are in this race with me.”
Parnell declined to specifically point to any specific candidates or issues, however.
“Yes we are in a primary, but I’m not a politician,” he said. “I would never talk negatively about another Republican, I really do believe in Reagan’s 11th commandment.”
According to Reagan.com, President Reagan’s 11th commandment says “Thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republican.”
The commandment also encourages Republicans to engage with each other respectfully.
As for the general election, Parnell said that he thinks Americans are dissatisfied with President Biden’s administration, and recent electoral trends make him optimistic about the outcome of the election.
“There is a very clear and empirical path to victory in this state, I think it gets more republican by the day, by the month,” he said. “In 2020, even with the Act 77, no excuse mail-in ballots, all that stuff in the chaos of covid, pandemic, congressional Republicans still got 85,000more votes statewide than congressional democrats, and we won judicial, these ballot questions by 139,000 votes to curb Gov. Wolf’s unilateral authority to declare emergencies.”
The four questions on the ballot included three amendments to Pennsylvania’s constitution and a statewide referendum, and all four passed.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website, the referendum made municipal fire and emergency medical companies eligible to apply for loan programs, and the constitutional amendments gave the General Assembly the power to end or extend an emergency declaration by the governor, put a 21 day deadline on any emergency declaration and declared that rights could not be infringed on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Parnell said that he comes from a family of “union democrats” and hopes to unify the state.
“If you love this country, and you want to give a better America to the next generation, you’re welcome to stand with me, fight with me and help preserve freedom in this country, so that’s our path. That’s how we win this state,” he said.
The date for the Republican primary for the senate seat is still pending, but is historically held in April or May of the election year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The 2022 general election will be held Nov. 8 of that year. Pennsylvanians can register to vote on the Pennsylvania Department of State website.