When Parnell Diggs was a little boy, a television show inspired him to become a firefighter.
His dream was soon dashed.
“You’re blind,” his grandmother told him. “There are some things you cannot do.”
During the holidays one year, Diggs’ younger brother proclaimed that he wanted to be a Christmas elf when he grew up. With hard work, maybe one day he could climb the ladder and ride in the sleigh with Santa.
“At family gatherings, relatives always asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Because it was cute. And nobody ever told him he couldn’t do it,” Diggs, now 45, told a small crowd at the monthly Spartanburg County Democratic Party luncheon. Diggs is running for attorney general and will face incumbent Alan Wilson, a Republican, in November. He stopped by Spartanburg before heading to the Galivants Ferry Stump later Monday.
“Children born like me aren’t expected to do very much in life,” he added.
Diggs, who is legally blind, graduated from Irmo High School and earned his law degree at the University of South Carolina. He owns a private practice in the Myrtle Beach area and serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. He and his wife have one son.
Diggs accused this state’s sitting top prosecutor of “playing politics” with the office and said the state’s executive branch was “mired in controversy.”
He was also critical of Wilson’s opposition to implementing the Affordable Care Act in South Carolina and, in turn, expanding Medicaid here.
“The attorney general is supposed to advocate for what is in the best interest of the people of South Carolina,” he said.
One woman at Monday’s luncheon told Diggs he should incorporate cracking down on domestic violence and sex trafficking in his stump speech, saying she had heard Wilson talk about those issues. Diggs told her he thought it was “understood” the Attorney General’s Office would crack down on those who abuse or exploit other people. He said the matter wasn’t just an election-year issue and accused Wilson of spending more time worrying about how to disenfranchise voters when his name wasn’t on a ballot.
The biggest election contests come November in South Carolina will be for the Governor’s Office and U.S. Senate. Diggs said he thought his chances of winning were “almost as good” as Democrat Vince Sheheen winning the governor’s race.
“It’s tough,” said Spartanburg County Democratic Party Chairman Ron Romine. “It may not happen like we want it to this year. We have a shot at governor, but down-ballot races are going to be tough.”
Part of the challenge, Romine said, is that so many people aren’t sure what some of the constitutional officers do.
Diggs was in Columbia two days last week lobbying for a Republican bill that would prevent blindness from being a sole consideration in guardianship and adoption decisions.