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Our view: Disappointing Cunningham
Our view

Our view: Disappointing Cunningham

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Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham (left) and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., debate Oct. 1 in Raleigh. 

What is it with politicians and cheating?

You’d think they were auditioning for an Alan Jackson song.

The latest to stray, it seems, is Democratic senatorial candidate Cal Cunningham, whose exchange of sexually explicit texts with Arlene Guzman Todd, a public relations strategist from California, came to light late last week. After the initial revelation, Guzman Todd also claimed that the two shared at least one intimate encounter.

In a series of interviews with The Associated Press earlier this week, Guzman Todd confirmed the authenticity of the texts and also described two in-person encounters with Cunningham. The one in March in Los Angeles, she said, did not include intimate contact, but the second one in July in North Carolina did.

Cunningham, a lawyer, former state senator and current lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, admitted to the suggestive texts, but as we write, he has not yet commented on the personal encounters.

"I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry,” Cunningham said in a statement last week. “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."

He apologized again during an online event Wednesday, saying, "I am deeply sorry for the hurt that I have caused in my personal life and I also apologize to all of you. 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 has been married for two decades. He and his wife have two teenage children.

This betrayal is disappointing to Cunningham’s supporters and painful to his family. And it may cost him his commission; the Army says it is investigating Cunningham.

Of course, he’s not the first politician to commit adultery. He joins a long line that includes former President Bill Clinton and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. If we wanted to dirty ourselves thinking about it, we could string out a long list of those who have strayed. One might think that power and fame invite corruption.

The revelation of Cunningham’s infidelity comes in the midst of a consequential and competitive senatorial campaign against Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis. He’s also been disappointing, especially in his approach to safeguarding himself and others from coronavirus. He revealed last week that he’s tested positive to the virus and is, thus, sequestering himself. He says he feels great.

This race could decide control of the Senate. For that reason alone, the revelations about Cunningham may not sway many voters.

And maybe they shouldn’t. President Trump’s infidelities with all three of his wives are well known, yet we’ve been assured by his supporters that they weren’t voting for a “pastor in chief,” but a commander in chief. Those who thought that the president’s character didn’t matter might want to sit this one out. There aren’t too many hairs to be split.

But for the rest of us that doesn’t excuse Cunningham’s moral error. It’s a tough situation for any family, and would take a great deal of work to get past. And it does suggest a lack of trustworthiness and moral fiber. Voters should take it into consideration, along with other factors, as they decide where to cast their ballots.

At least, though, Cunningham didn’t try to deny or make excuses for stumbling. It wasn’t someone else’s fault. He took responsibility.

We wish his family well.

In a political year that’s been full of chaos, we’re tempted to say that any candidate who is simply dull is worthy of a vote. There just don’t seem to be too many of those anymore.

More’s the pity.

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