Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham said Friday that he is “taking complete responsibility” for sending sexually charged text messages to a woman who is not his wife, but vowed to not drop out of his race against incumbent Thom Tillis.
“I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry. The first step in repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do. I ask that my family’s privacy be respected in this personal matter,” Cunningham — a married father of two and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve — said in a statement. “I remain grateful and humbled by the ongoing support that North Carolinians have extended in this campaign, and in the remaining weeks before this election I will continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state.”
Reached for comment, Tillis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo told National Review that “while we were surprised to read the news about Cal Cunningham in the News and Observer last night, our campaign is focused on the health of Senator Tillis and our staff.” Tillis announced on Friday that he was one of several Republican senators to test positive for COVID-19.
“As we adapt our campaign in light of the Senator’s positive test, all questions on Cunningham should be directed to his campaign,” Romeo added.
The texts, first reported on Thursday by NationalFile.com, show Cunningham exchanging risqué remarks with Arlene Guzman Todd, a public relations strategist based in California and the wife of a veteran. FEC records show that Todd has given $450 to the Cunningham campaign since April.
“You are historically sexy,” Cunningham told Todd on one occasion, according to screen shots of their conversation. “Would make my day to roll over and kiss you about now,” he said in another screen grab. “You’re so sweet. I would enjoy that,” Todd responded.
While it’s unclear when the messages occurred, in one message Cunningham says that he’s “Nervous about the next 100 days,” a possible reference to the election. In another, Todd tells Cunningham to “Pick a day, city, make up an excuse for the fam, ditch a staffer, starch your white shirt, and be ready to kiss a lot.”
Cunningham announced this week that he raised a record $28.3 million in the third quarter, nearly quadrupling his fundraising haul from the second quarter. Cunningham has been accused by Republicans of running a “windowless basement” strategy, consisting of few public appearances and heavy criticism of his opponent, to win in November.
Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated with a comment from the Tillis campaign.