Sexually suggestive texts, COVID-19 diagnosis add new wrinkles to US Senate race in NC

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina Cal Cunningham has decided to cancel his appearance at a virtual town hall event. 

The event that was set to take place Monday afternoon, comes on the heels of Cunningham admitting he sent sexually suggestive texts to a woman who is not his wife. 

A spokesperson for Cunningham’s campaign said this to CBS 17: “He’s unable to attend today but looks forward to continuing to work to earn the opportunity to fight for North Carolinians.”  

Cunningham, who is married with two children, added that he’s not dropping out of the Senate race against Republican incumbent Thom Tillis.

“I will continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state,” Cunningham said in a statement.

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 

“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. 

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.” 

On Monday, Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released a new poll taken since the news came out regarding the text messages and Tillis’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

The poll found Cunningham leading 48-42. The agency’s last public poll in July had him leading 48-44.  

“The news over the weekend is having somewhat of an impact on Cunningham’s favorability rating, with 37% saying they have a positive opinion of him to 39% with a negative one. But that -2 net favorability rating is still 21 points better than Tillis’- he’s at -23 with 31% of voters having a favorable opinion of him to 54% with an unfavorable one,” PPP noted in a news release. 37% say (the latest news) makes them less likely to vote for Cunningham, and 3% say it makes them more likely to,” the polling firm said.

Cunningham’s campaign did not respond to a series of questions from CBS 17 Monday regarding the text messages.  

“You’ve already cleared the primary in a race that’s going to be a $200 million Senate race, and you’re acting like this? I think that really goes to deeper issues,” said Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley.  “We’ve already had early votes that are being cast, and he’s acting like this. It really goes to judgment.” 

During a press conference Monday, state Rep. Darren Jackson said, “It sounds to me like it’s a private family matter.” 

“I’m gonna let Mr. Cunningham and his advisers and Senator Tillis and his advisers run their campaign how they see fit. You know, the voters are making their decisions and they’ll make it based on what’s important to them,” Jackson, a Democrat, said.  

Cunningham’s campaign acknowledged the texts just a few hours after Sen. Tillis revealed he’d tested positive for COVID-19. Tillis attended the ceremony in the White House Rose Garden where President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court pick. Since that event, several people in attendance, including President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive. 

“The fact that (Senator Tillis) has been, I guess, infected with COVID-19 is a little bit disappointing. But, this virus with the way it moves around, does not discriminate,” said Whatley. 

When asked if the series of positive tests linked to the White House would stop large-scale campaign events in North Carolina, Whatley said, “We certainly are going to prepare as if we’re not going to have that.” 

A spokesman for Tillis said Monday he “feels great” and no longer has any symptoms of COVID-19. 

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