Senate candidate admits to exchanging sexual text messages with strategist

Cunningham apologized, but said he did not plan to drop out of the race.

October 03, 2020, 5:07 PM

Cal Cunningham, Democratic challenger for the North Carolina Senate seat, admitted to sending sexual text messages to a California strategist who is not his wife, but said that he does not plan on dropping out of the race.

Cunningham, a married father of two, confirmed to ABC News that screenshots of text messages, first obtained by a cultural and political website called the National File and shared by National Republican Senatorial Committee communication director, Jesse Hunt on Twitter, were authentic.

PHOTO: Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham speaks during a televised debate with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, Oct. 1, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C. Cunningham has admitted to sending sexual text messages to a California strategist who is not his wife.
Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham speaks during a televised debate with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, Oct. 1, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C. Cunningham has admitted to sending sexual text messages to a California strategist who is not his wife.
Gerry Broome/AP

In one screenshot, an account named "Cal Cunningham" appears to post, "Would make my day to roll over and kiss you about now," to which a reply is sent: "You're so sweet. I would enjoy that."

In another screenshot, the "Cal Cunningham" account posts, "nervous for the next 100 days," which could reference the upcoming Senate election. However, it is unclear when those messages were sent.

ABC News has not seen the text messages.

In response to his admission, Cunningham said in a statement, "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."

Furthermore, he adds that he will remain in the race for Senate.

"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," he said.

The acknowledgement of the messages came just hours after his opponent, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, announced on Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 but has no symptoms. Tillis is one of several political figures who was infected with the virus after attending the Supreme Court nomination ceremony in the White House Rose Garden for Amy Coney Barrett.

Cunningham tweeted on Friday that he wished Tillis a "quick recovery," and that he is, "thinking of him and his family."

Cunningham's admission of sending sexual text messages and Tillis' confirmation of testing positive for coronavirus are shaking up one of the most-watched Senate races this year. While Republicans aim to maintain the majority by keeping the seat, Democrats have been hoping to pick up the North Carolina Senate seat held by incumbent Republican Sen. Tillis – in their efforts to retake the Senate. Democrats would need to gain four seats in November to accomplish that goal.

Currently, the Senate race remains tight, but Cunningham leads Tillis 42% to 37%.

ABC News' Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.

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