The investigation of the extramarital conduct of a North Carolina Democrat running for a U.S. Senate seat has now escalated as the widening scandal deepens.
Last week, Democrat Cal Cunningham, who is seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, acknowledged exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a woman who is not his wife
On Monday, Arlene Guzman Todd confirmed to The Associated Press that her relationship with Cunningham went beyond texts and included at least one intimate encounter. Cunningham has been married to another woman for 20 years, and Guzman Todd is reportedly married as well.
On Wednesday, the Army Reserve said it was investigating Cunningham, who serves as a lieutenant colonel in the reserve force.
“The Army Reserve is investigating the matters involving Lt. Col. James Cunningham. As such, we are unable to provide further details at this time,” Simon B. Flake, chief of media relations and public information for Army Reserve Strategic Communications, told WRAL-TV.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice labels adultery as “unacceptable conduct.” The website Heavy.com has claimed that the woman with whom Cunningham had a relationship is the wife of a military veteran.
Guzman Todd, a California public relations strategist, confirmed to the AP that she had two in-person encounters with Cunningham. She said a July rendezvous in North Carolina was intimate, while a March one in Los Angeles was not.
The AP also reported that it obtained texts Guzman Todd sent to an individual other than Cunningham, and that the outlet “contacted [Guzman Todd] to confirm their authenticity.”
In one text, Guzman Todd characterized it as “weird” that she and Cunningham were intimate at his home, according to the AP.
Some texts the AP appeared to show frustration with Cunningham.
“I’m just going to send to his opponent his naked photos,” she reportedly wrote. “That will teach him.”
In another text obtained by WRAL, Guzman Todd reportedly wrote: “I just want to [expletive] him one last time and break his heart.”
Another said, “Trying to make plans to see the politician so I can give him the [expletive] of his life and then walk away.”
Cunningham spokeswoman Rachel Petri said the Democrat will not drop out of the race.
“Cal will participate in this process, but it does not change the stakes of this election or the need for new leaders who will fight for the issues North Carolinians care about instead of caving to the corporate special interests — which is exactly what Senator Tillis has done in his years in Washington,” Petri told WRAL on Wednesday.
Cunningham, who has canceled at least one campaign event, issued a statement Friday about his relationship with 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,” he said. “I ask that my family’s privacy be respected in this personal matter.”
Tillis said Cunningham needs to tell the whole truth.
“I’m sad for his wife and his teenage children,” Tillis told WRAL on Tuesday.
“Cal Cunningham owes everybody an explanation for two revelations over the past week. I think North Carolinians deserve it. He needs to stop canceling media events and campaign events and go before the people of North Carolina and give us all a thorough explanation.”
Guzman Todd apologized for the “pain and embarrassment, and disrespect I’ve caused to my immediate family, loved ones, and everyone affected by this situation.”
“A few months back, I displayed a lapse in judgment by engaging in a relationship with Cal Cunningham during a period of marital separation,” she told the AP.
“The relationship spanned several months and consisted primarily of a series of text exchanges and an in-person encounter.”
Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, said the emerging details could hurt Cunningham’s candidacy.
“It was a character-first campaign, and it was as much about who Cal Cunningham is than what Cal Cunningham stands for — and that’s a harder sell today than it was last week,” Cooper told the AP on Tuesday.
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