sunny.png
Tuesday July 27th, 2021 8:16AM

Cunningham keeps low in NC Senate race marked by his affair

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham is bypassing uncomfortable questions about his extramarital activities in the final days of his closely contested race with GOP Sen. Thom Tillis.

Whether his strategy alters the outcome of what’s now the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history will depend on whether swing voters are set on removing Tillis — and potentially ending GOP control of the chamber — even if it means a replacement facing a sex scandal.

“Clearly Cunningham made a self-inflicted wound, but the question is what are voters really going to be focused on down the stretch?” asked Thomas Mills, a longtime Democratic consultant not involved in the race.

Cunningham acknowledged three weeks ago that he exchanged sexually suggestive texts with a woman who is not his wife. A few days later, The Associated Press reported additional texts and interviews confirming they had an intimate encounter as recent as July — while Cunningham was deep in the hard-fought campaign.

Since then, Cunningham has largely stuck to tightly controlled virtual calls with interest groups that back him and small, unannounced in-person appearances so reporters can't ask questions. During the one online news conference he held, the Raleigh attorney and U.S. Army Reserve officer refused to directly answer whether he had had other affairs.

“I’ve taken responsibility for the hurt that I’ve caused in my personal life. I’ve apologized for it,” Cunningham told reporters on Oct. 9. “I’ve said what I’m going to say about it.”

Tillis and Republican allies are jumping on Cunningham’s reticence, running ads that question his trustworthiness in contrast with his TV-commercial persona as an Army officer who rooted out corrupt military contractors in Iraq. Some feature veterans. Tillis' campaign also says he's given more than two dozen interviews since Cunningham's lone news conference.

Cunningham “has not been truthful and he has not been honorable,” Tillis said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And then that raises a question about whether or not you can believe anything he said up to this point in terms of what he will and will not do if he gets elected to the Senate.”

Cunningham has tried to frame the race on issues and ousting Tillis, who is seeking his second term. He's blamed Tillis for failing to expand COVID-19 relief and voting often to do away with President Barack Obama's health care law. Groups from the Human Rights Campaign to the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters to unions are coming to Cunningham's side.

“You’ve got to send Cal Cunningham to the United States Senate if health care is your issue in the state of North Carolina,” Brad Woodhouse, president of Protect Our Care, an organization that advocates preserving the 2010 health care law, said at a virtual event this week featuring Cunningham. No questions were taken from the news media.

Changes to campaigns nationwide amid the pandemic have made Cunningham’s low-key campaign profile seem less jarring. Tillis was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October. He campaigned in person last weekend after recovering.

Cunningham’s campaign didn’t make him available for an AP interview. Instead, spokesperson Rachel Petri released a statement saying, “Sen. Tillis and his allies are relying on desperate, personal attacks to make their final appeal to North Carolinians because they cannot defend Sen. Tillis’ record." Cunningham himself makes a similar pitch in a TV ad that began running Friday.

National Democrats are committed to protecting their investment in the seat — one of several they’re spending heavily on to wrest from Republicans this year. They need to flip at least four to take back the Senate. North Carolina's is already the most expensive Senate race ever, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with $246 million spent so far by the two candidates and outside groups.

Cunningham's campaign raised $28.3 million in the third quarter, quadrupling what Tillis' raised, and allowing the Democrat to hammer away with TV ads. Cunningham outraised Tillis again in the first two weeks of October, according to campaign reports.

But polls show the race narrowing, and the editorial boards of the Charlotte and Raleigh newspapers withheld an endorsement of Cunningham that they said they had been prepared to give him before the affair. “His lack of judgment ... should deeply trouble North Carolinians,” their editorial read. The papers did not endorse either candidate.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper referred to Cunningham’s troubles while he spoke briefly with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during a campaign stop in North Carolina last weekend.

“We’re going to all get across the line,” Cooper said to Biden at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in a conversation recorded by WRAL-TV. “I think Cal’s going to get across the line, too. I know that’s frustrating. We’ll get it across.”

Republicans have emphasized how the U.S. Army Reserve is now investigating Cunningham. The military hasn't said for what, but adultery can be punishable under the military code.

Campaign operatives have said for months the outcome would depend on independent voters, who now make up one-third of the state’s electorate. With so many people voting early — nearly 3 million as of early Saturday — the universe of unaffiliated voters is shrinking quickly.

It includes Carol Hall, 56, an interior designer from Charlotte who switched her Republican registration last year because she didn't feel the party cared about moderates any more.

Cunningham “screwed up, there’s no doubt about it,” Hall said. But she said she’s still prepared to vote for him unless more sexual revelations surface. “He’s not the first politician to have an affair,” she added, pointing to the multiple allegations against Trump.

“It's troubling for sure, but I don’t think that those actions will change what he can do for North Carolina,” Hall said.

But Cunningham's activities are a game-changer for unaffiliated voter Brian Harbach, 39, of Greensboro, who was a Bernie Sanders supporter. The forecast analyst in the apparel industry said he's now voting for Tillis instead of Cunningham.

“We just can’t be sending low-character people to the Senate," Harbach said.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Senate Election News, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Cunningham keeps low in NC Senate race marked by his affair
North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham is bypassing uncomfortable questions about his extramarital activities in the final days of his race with GOP Sen. Thom Tillis
10:30AM ( 4 minutes ago )
'All talk, no action' defense likely in Michigan kidnap case
Defense lawyers for the men accused of trying to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are likely to argue that their clients were all talk and no action
9:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
US sets coronavirus infection record; deaths near 224,000
The U.S. coronavirus caseload has reached record heights with more than 83,000 infections reported in a single day
6:46AM ( 3 hours ago )
U.S. News
Guinean president wins a 3rd term, electoral commission says
Guinea’s electoral commission says President Alpha Conde has won a third term with 59.49% of the vote
10:12AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Ethiopia blasts Trump remark that Egypt will 'blow up' dam
Ethiopia is denouncing “belligerent threats” over the huge dam it has nearly completed on the Nile, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said downstream Egypt will “blow up” the project it calls an existential threat
9:56AM ( 39 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump voting in Florida; Bon Jovi joining Biden
President Donald Trump is casting his ballot Saturday morning, taking advantage of Florida’s early voting system
9:43AM ( 51 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Four years in, Trump has plenty of unfinished business
President Donald Trump swept into office nearly four years ago as an outsider who promised to get things done on behalf of the American people through force of will and unrivaled knowledge about the art of the deal
8:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Needle goes away as probability experts assess 2020 race
Probability estimates for the 2020 U.S. presidential election are still being made, but one fixture of the 2016 cycle won’t make a return
8:40AM ( 1 hour ago )
As Trump casts doubt on election, new agency contradicts him
As President Donald Trump sows doubts about the election, an obscure government agency he created is working behind the scenes to inspire confidence in the vote amid unprecedented challenges
8:19AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Egypt's parliamentary vote likely to tighten leader's grip
Egyptians have begun voting in the first stage of a parliamentary election, in a vote that is highly likely to produce a toothless lower chamber packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi
7:14AM ( 3 hours ago )
Work already underway for presidential inauguration
While much of Washington is twisted in knots over the upcoming election, there’s another contingent already busy trying to figure out how to stage an inauguration for the next president during a pandemic
2:46AM ( 7 hours ago )
Work already underway for inauguration of TBD president
While much of Washington is twisted in knots over the upcoming election, there’s another contingent already busy trying to figure out how to stage an inauguration for the next president during a pandemic
12:47AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Nebraska, Maine could play pivotal role in presidential race
Nebraska and Maine aren’t exactly swing states in the race to pick the next president, but each one has something to offer next month that could give them a huge amount of sway: a single electoral vote
6:22PM ( 16 hours ago )
Problems with his health? McConnell says 'of course not'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there’s nothing the public needs to know about his health after photos showed what appears to be bruising on his hands and around his mouth
6:01PM ( 16 hours ago )
Parties' late spending on Senate races shows GOP's jeopardy
Republicans and Democrats are unleashing millions in eleventh-hour spending in Senate races
5:21PM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
The Latest: Trump revels in Biden's comments on oil industry
President Donald Trump is trying to keep the focus on Democrat Joe Biden’s comments in the final presidential debate about supporting a “transition” away from oil in favor of renewable energy
8:49PM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Harris: Trump fixated on hurting Obama's legacy
Kamala Harris says President Donald Trump has a “weird obsession” with rolling back everything former President Barack Obama did in office
6:48PM ( 15 hours ago )
Dispute over Ohio drop box limit ends as advocates drop suit
A coalition of voter advocacy groups has dropped a lawsuit against Ohio’s strict rule limiting ballot drop boxes to one location per county
5:58PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Elections
Trump, Biden lawyer up, brace for White House legal battle
President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaigns are assembling armies of powerful lawyers as they prepare for the possibility that the race for the White House is decided not at the ballot box but in court
3:36PM ( 18 hours ago )
Cheerful Trump hits the trail, Biden tries debate cleanup
President Donald Trump and his allies are fighting for momentum in the nation’s leading battleground states following a debate performance that gave new hope to anxious Republicans
3:03PM ( 19 hours ago )
Trump, Biden frame closing appeals for sprint to election
President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are ready to package their divergent personal styles and policy prescriptions into closing messages for the final sprint to Election Day
12:37PM ( 21 hours ago )
General Election News
GOP in ruby red Kansas stresses over costly Senate race
Many Republicans who were desperate to have Congressman Roger Marshall as their candidate for an open Senate seat in Kansas are finding the race to be much tougher and more expensive than they had expected
5:13PM ( 1 day ago )
GOP-led Senate panel advances Barrett as Democrats boycott
The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate
4:28PM ( 1 day ago )
GOP-led Senate panel advances Barrett despite Dems' boycott
The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate
12:35PM ( 1 day ago )
General Senate Election News
Virus, economy top concerns as Lithuanians vote in runoff
The coronavirus pandemic is the main domestic issue as Lithuania holds a parliamentary runoff election Sunday, and the winner will have to tackle a rapidly deteriorating public health sector and high unemployment
4:31AM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: Slovenian foreign minister tests positive
Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Anze Logar has tested positive for the coronavirus
3:44AM ( 6 hours ago )
California utility may cut power to 1 million
Pacific Gas & Electric says it will may power to some 1 million people this weekend in central and Northern California, which could see the most dangerous fire weather of the season
3:02AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race
President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fought over how to tame the raging coronavirus in the final 2020 debate
10:34AM ( 1 day ago )
More solid earnings reports send US stock indexes higher
Stocks are opening slightly higher on Wall Street, following gains in European markets, as more U.S. companies report encouraging results for the summer earnings period
9:43AM ( 1 day ago )
Biden calls for 'transition' from oil, GOP sees opening
Democrat Joe Biden's remarks that he will transition away from the oil industry in favor of renewable energy sources have drawn quick attention from President Donald Trump
12:49AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
'All talk, no action' defense likely in Michigan kidnap case
Defense lawyers for the men accused of trying to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are likely to argue that their clients were all talk and no action
9:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
US sets coronavirus infection record; deaths near 224,000
The U.S. coronavirus caseload has reached record heights with more than 83,000 infections reported in a single day
6:46AM ( 3 hours ago )
California prosecutors again seek death for Scott Peterson
California prosecutors say they will again seek the death penalty for Scott Peterson even as a county judge considers throwing out his conviction for murdering his pregnant wife because of juror misconduct during a trial that riveted the nation
12:27AM ( 10 hours ago )
Trump campaign sues in Nevada to stop Vegas-area vote count
The Trump campaign and Nevada Republicans want a judge to stop the counting of Las Vegas-area mail-in ballots
11:20PM ( 11 hours ago )
Some hospitals in crisis as US nears high for COVID-19 cases
The United States is approaching a record for the number of new daily coronavirus cases in the latest ominous sign of the disease’s grip on the nation
8:20PM ( 14 hours ago )