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Army Reserve officer running for US Senate says he won't answer questions about scandal

Lexington native and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham shows his appreciation to his hometown supporters at The Barbecue Center during the kick-off of his "Carolina Conversations" tour of the state. The husband of a woman who confirmed an extramarital affair with Cunningham said he should drop out of the North Carolina race.

DONNIE ROBERTS/THE DISPATCH/TNS

By BRIAN MURPHY | The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) | Published: October 10, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Cal Cunningham repeatedly declined to answer questions about his personal scandal, including whether more women would come forward with claims of extramarital affairs.

"I have taken responsibility for the hurt that I have caused in my personal life. I've apologized for it and I know this campaign, our campaign, is about things that are much bigger or more important than just me," Cunningham said during a press event Friday afternoon.

A California-based public relations strategist Arlene Guzman Todd said she had an affair with Cunningham, who is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Guzman Todd is married to Jeremy Todd, an Army veteran. The U.S. Army Reserve Command is investigating the "matter," and Cunningham could face punishment for an extramarital affair under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Cunningham confirmed text messages exchanged with Guzman Todd and has said he "hurt his family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry. The first step to repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do."

Cunningham took questions for about 12 minutes at the end of a press event, which featured three supporters, including a union representative for workers in the airline industry, a small business owner from Boone and the president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The call was to discuss the need for more coronavirus relief, but the questions all centered on Cunningham's personal scandal. A California woman alleges that Cunningham, a married father of two, had an extramarital affair with her this summer. Cunningham has not denied the affair and has confirmed the authenticity of sexual text messages between the woman and him.

Asked four times if there were more women yet to come forward, Cunningham, 47, did not answer directly. Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, Cunningham's opponent in the race, has publicly discussed a second affair allegation against Cunningham, an unconfirmed one made on Facebook by an attorney who says she knows of that relationship.

"I've taken responsibility for the hurt I've caused in my personal life. I've apologized for it. I've said what I'm going to say about it," Cunningham said.

Cunningham's race against Tillis is one of the most watched – and most expensive – in the country with control of the U.S. Senate potentially at stake.

"I believe, and this campaign knows, that if I continue to hold Thom Tillis accountable for his failures, as we have, and I continue to focus on the issues of the lives of the people in this state, we will win this election," Cunningham said.

Tillis and Republican allies have been hammering Cunningham over the affair and his refusal to address the media about it. The Tillis campaign released a television ad Thursday, joining other Republican groups that are spending big to highlight Cunningham's personal issues.

Tillis said Cunningham owes voters "a full and thorough explanation."

Cunningham made his first appearance Wednesday night during a virtual awards ceremony hosted by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

"I am deeply sorry for the hurt that I have caused in my personal life and I also apologize to all of you," Cunningham said at the beginning of his remarks, which lasted less than seven minutes.

"I hope all of you watching at home will accept this sincere apology and that we will continue to work together to change the direction of our country and strengthen our state."

Cunningham spent the rest of his speech contrasting his record with Tillis' on issues such as the coronavirus pandemic response, health care and climate change.

"I will not get sidetracked," he said, "and I hope you won't either."

The North Carolina Senate race is seen as key to which party takes control of the chamber in January – and has seen more than $100 million in spending. Cunningham has led in polls throughout the summer and into the fall.

But the scandal could shake up the race.

"Cal Cunningham's recent scandal isn't just about sex. In fact, it's mostly about hypocrisy. It's possible that some voters have become desensitized to sexual immorality from a politician, but what they undeniably still desire above all things is for their elected leaders to be genuine," the Tillis campaign wrote in a memo released Thursday.

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