Senate candidate Cal Cunningham admits sending sexually suggestive texts

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FILE – Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham speaks during a televised debate with U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C. Cunningham has admitted to sending sexual text messages to a California strategist who is not his wife. Cunningham apologized but said he would not drop out of the race in a statement to multiple news outlets late Friday. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, Pool, file)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Democratic challenger in North Carolina’s closely contested U.S. Senate contest has admitted to exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a woman who’s not his wife, but he said he will not drop out of the race.

Cal Cunningham apologized late Friday for the text message exchanges in which he tells the woman he wants to kiss her and she says she wants to spend the night with him. The messages were first reported by the website NationalFile.com.

“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,” Cunningham said in a statement.

Cunningham’s admission regarding the text messages, along with his opponent U.S. Senate Thom Tillis testing positive for COVID-19, could reshape a closely contested campaign that’s considered key to determining the power balance in the Senate.

But Cunningham, who is married with two children, added that he’s not dropping out of the Senate race: “I will continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state.”

Screengrabs of the messages show Cunningham told public relations strategist Arlene Guzman Todd, “Would make my day to roll over and kiss you about now,” to which she replies, “You’re so sweet. I would enjoy that.”

Another shows Guzman Todd tell Cunningham, “the only thing I want on my to do list is you,” to which Cunningham replies, “Sounds so hot and so fun!”

A spokeswoman for Cunningham’s campaign, Rachel Petri, confirmed the authenticity of the text messages.

It’s unclear when the messages were sent, but at one point Cunningham says he’s “Nervous about the next 100 days,” which could be a reference to the Senate election. One hundred days before the election would be July 26.

An email trying to reach Guzman Todd at the communications firm that lists her as an employee wasn’t immediately returned Saturday morning.

Earlier Friday, Cunningham’s opponent, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 but said he has no symptoms. Cunningham tweeted that he wished Tillis a “quick recovery” and said he would get tested himself after the two men shared a debate stage Thursday night.

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