October surprise and a Covid-19 diagnosis rock the race for US Senate seat in North Carolina

It was just another Friday in the race for the US Senate seat in North Carolina until a double October surprise threatened to upend one of the most expensive Senate races in the country.

Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham apologized on Friday for sending romantic text messages to a California political strategist, who is not his wife. That same day, incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis tested positive for Covid-19, just hours after President Donald Trump was flown to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC.
Cunningham, an Iraq war veteran, has run a campaign centered around his character and integrity. The news on Friday, could upend what had been considered to be a competitive race in a key state.
In a series of text messages captured in screenshots on NationalFile.com, Cunningham called the woman “historically sexy” and suggested he wanted to meet with her.
    “Would make my day to roll over and kiss you about now,” he wrote in another text.
    In a statement provided to CNN, Cunningham confirmed that he had breached his family’s trust and apologized for his behavior, while suggesting he would move forward with his campaign.
    In a statement to CNN, Cunningham said, “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.”
    Meanwhile,Tillis tested positive for Covid-19, just one day after sharing the stage with his opponent in a debate.
    In a statement about his diagnosis, Tillis said, “Over the last few months, I’ve been routinely tested for COVID-19, including testing negative last Saturday, but tonight my rapid antigen test came back positive. I will be following the recommendations of my doctor and will be self-isolating at home for 10 days and notifying those I’ve been in close contact with.”
    Tillis was photographed not wearing a mask at a private White House reception for the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, on Saturday, September 26. Tillis had previously been spotted not wearing a mask in August during the Republican National Convention. He later apologized for the night he “fell short.”
    But it remains to be seen if either incident will have an impact on voters already casting their ballots in North Carolina.
    “Friday’s big news would be big news in any election year. It’s unclear how big of an impact that’s going to have this year just because we seem to have big news very regularly,” said Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
    Emma Schambach, a student and a Republican North Carolina voter, said her phone notifications wouldn’t stop on Friday as the Tillis and Cunningham news broke. Asked if she thought Tillis’ Covid-19 diagnosis would have any bearing on her decision to vote for him, she said it wouldn’t.
    “I think that his campaign has been very responsible with wearing the masks and trying to maintain the social distance,” Schambach said. “And I think that it is expected statistically that at some point somebody was going to get sick on the campaign. And it’s just unfortunate, and we’re keeping it in our prayers.”
    Larry Shaheen, Jr., a GOP consultant in Charlotte, said the bigger issue is the one facing the Cunningham campaign — and that could present an opportunity to sway undecided voters.
    “I would not be hitting the fact that he had an affair,” Shaheen tells CNN. “It would be about can you trust Cunningham? And the question the answer to that is unequivocally no.”
      Aisha Dew, a Democratic political strategist disagreed, saying Cunningham still had a strong platform — and citing Trump’s election, despite allegations of sexual misconduct.
      “At the end of the day, a lot of suburban women still chose to actually vote for Donald Trump with all of, with a lot of really bad information out prior to that election,” Dew said. “They’re making decisions about what’s happening in the voters home, in the people’s home, and their ability to live and have the access to health care they need, especially during a time like Covid.”

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