North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham admitted Friday to sending intimate text messages to a woman who is not his wife — but said he would not drop out of one of the key races that will determine which party controls the Senate next year.
Cunningham sent several text messages to a woman in which the two discussed kissing and hypothetically spending the night together, according to screenshots of the messages that were posted online Thursday. The messages were originally posted by the right-wing website NationalFile.com and confirmed by the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., late Friday.
Cunningham’s campaign also confirmed the authenticity of the text messages to POLITICO.
“Would make my day to roll over and kiss you right now,” Cunningham wrote in one of the messages. Dates were not included in the screenshots. The woman sent a separate text message asking when she could see him, writing, “I want to kiss you,” and later, “I want a night with you,” according to the screenshots.
Cunningham, an Army veteran and former state senator, is running against GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in one of the most expensive and competitive Senate races in the country. Cunningham has led in the polls consistently in recent weeks, and absentee voting in the state started last month.
Cunningham apologized in a statement and said he did not intend to exit the race.
“I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry,” Cunningham said in the statement. “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.
“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.”
The development was just the latest turn in the race late this week. Earlier Friday, Tillis confirmed that he tested positive for Covid-19 and would shut down his campaign headquarters, cease in-person events and isolate for ten days. Cunningham announced he would be tested for coronavirus as well because he and Tillis interacted a debate Thursday, their third of the campaign.
As of Thursday, more than 319,000 votes had already been cast in North Carolina, according to the state board of elections website.
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