The Democratic candidate for Senate from North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, sent repeated suggestive texts and held at least one intimate encounter in an extramarital relationship that continued through at least July, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Cunningham, a married father of two and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, has been locked in a tight race with current North Carolina senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, as Democrats attempt to flip the Senate in their favor. Cunningham is currently leading in polls by over five points, according to RealClearPolitics polling averages.
However, the race was upended last week after the conservative publication NationalFile.com reported that Cunningham exchanged extramarital sexts with Arlene Guzman Todd, a public relations strategist from California. This story broke shortly before Tillis announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The two engaged in an intimate encounter in July, Guzman Todd confirmed in an interview with the AP. The outlet also reported previously undisclosed messages between them.
Guzman Todd texted friends to say she had the intimate encounter with Cunningham at his home in North Carolina, and that the experience was “weird.” She also complained that the candidate paid her too little attention.
“I’m just going to send his opponent his naked photos. That will teach him,” Guzman Todd wrote. In another message, she wrote “He knows [that I] can tank his campaign.”
Other messages obtained by a North Carolina NBC affiliate, WRAL News, were more explicit.
“I just want to [expletive] him one last time and break his heart,” Guzman Todd wrote.
“A few months back, I displayed a lapse in judgment by engaging in a relationship with Cal Cunningham during a period of marital separation,” Guzman Todd said in a statement. She apologized for the “pain and embarrassment, and disrespect I’ve caused to my immediate family, loved ones, and everyone affected by this situation.”
Senator Tillis told WRAL that Cunningham should explain his actions.
“I’m sad for his wife and his teenage children,” Tillis said. “Cal Cunningham owes everybody an explanation for two revelations over the past week. I think North Carolinians deserve it.”
Cunningham did not immediately react to the new details revealed about his relationship. On Friday, Cunningham said he would take “complete responsibility” for sending sexually suggestive text messages to Guzman Todd.
“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,” the candidate said.
The Cunningham campaign confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that the candidate would remain in the race, although he canceled a planned town-hall meeting and has not posted on social media since news of the extramarital relationship broke.
Since testing positive, Senator Tillis has continued to campaign and give interviews remotely.