The AP has now confirmed with Arlene Guzman Todd, that she and Cal Cunningham did in fact have an adulterous sexual affair.
“The Army Reserve is investigating the matters involving Lt. Col. James Cunningham. As such, we are unable to provide further details at this time,” Army Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Simon Flake said in a statement to WBTV.
It is now possible, Cunningham could face an investigation into his affair with the wife of a lower ranking soldier by the U.S. Army, as his actions are in violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
Lt. Col. Cal Cunningham continues to serve in the Army Reserve. He is currently assigned to the 134 Legal Operations Detachment based at Fort Bragg. Cunningham has served with various units from Fort Bragg, including XVIII Airborne Corps and First Special Forces Command. The husband of Cunningham’s mistress, Lt. Jeremy Todd served for 19 years, 17 of them on active duty, including five combat deployments as an enlisted soldier and later as an officer.
It is clear that Cunningham’s viability as a candidate for the U.S. Senate is now in serious question.
I will leave it to others to speculate on what happens next, but at this stage, there are important lessons to learn:
#1. Early voting is convenient but risky for voters.
More than 380,000 North Carolinians have already cast their election ballots, according to Civitas’ VoteTracker. While a handful of states allow a voter to change their early ballot before election day, North Carolina is not one of them.
Based on the disproportional number of Democrats voting early by mail, as compared to Republicans, there is little doubt that Cunningham would have a large majority of ballots already cast in the U.S. Senate race.
However, some of those voters are bound to have buyer’s remorse.
Those voters will have to live with the fact that voting more than a month before the election could mean they unknowingly cast a vote for someone that engaged in morally repugnant conduct and could face time in military prison.
People who voted early must live with their decision.
#2. Competitive party primaries can be critical to protecting both political parties and voters at large.
It is understandable why in a highly competitive U.S. Senate race party officials in Washington D.C. wanted to avoid a costly and divisive Democratic primary for the Senate seat.
As noted in the Free Beacon:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) was perfectly clear about the kind of candidate he wanted North Carolina Democrats to nominate to face incumbent senator Thom Tillis (R.) in 2020.
Last year, when state senator Jeff Jackson—a relatively young, white, male veteran—was being courted to enter the race, Schumer reportedly laid out his vision for a winning campaign strategy. After rejecting Jackson’s suggestion of holding town halls to interact with voters, Schumer said he wanted the Democratic nominee to “spend the next 16 months in a windowless basement raising money, and then we’re going to spend 80 percent of it on negative ads about Tillis.”
“Schumer started backing Cunningham before the former one-term state senator even announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination. The Senate minority leader helped Cunningham raise more than $150,000 from New York-based donors before entering the race, a clear indication Cunningham would be the Democratic establishment’s preferred candidate.”
This enraged Black North Carolina Democrats such as State Senator Erica Smith, an eventual Democratic Senate candidate, and Rev. William Barber.
Today’s endorsement by the DSCC [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] removes the false veil of neutrality and confirms their attempt to sway this U.S. Senate election away from the voices and voters of North Carolina.
The DSCC has been unofficially backing Cal Cunningham as their ‘heir apparent’ with personnel, resources, directed donations, infrastructure, and more since he entered the race in June. We have made multiple overtures to the DSCC about them under the table support for my primary opponent and they told us, unequivocally, that they were not, had not, did not intend to endorse in the Primary. In fact, I met one-on-one with the DSCC Executive Director in August and he assured us that the DSCC was not making any efforts in the NC Primary. Our objective has always been to allow the voters — and the voters only — to be the decision makers in this primary election. The failure of the DSCC to disclose their ongoing support for Mr. Cunningham’s campaign puts their thumb on the scale of our democracy and mutes the voice of North Carolina Voters. This is unacceptable.
State Senator Erica Smith, Oct 31, 2019
“Every time this has happened in the past & the person they didn’t support was black, the candidate they picked ended up losing in the fall b/c Dems unnecessarily divided themselves in the primary,” Barber tweeted on Feb. 20, adding that the DSCC should stay out of the primary.
National Democrats did the same thing in 2010, when they supported Cunningham over NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in the U.S. Senate race.
“North Carolina Democrats do not appreciate Washington trying to handpick or anoint their candidate,” Marshall said. She lost in the general election to the GOP’s Richard Burr when after beating the DSCC backed Cal Cunningham, the DSCC abandoned the U.S. Senate race, denying Marshall critical funds to be a competitive candidate. When the DSCC could not get their preferred candidate in Cunningham, they took their ball and went home.
As former executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, I was tasked with enforcing strict state party rules about playing favorites in primaries, which are complicated but are designed to give all candidates an opportunity to earn a party nomination and prove their worth to voters.
Perhaps if NC State Senator Jeff Jackson, State Senator Erica Smith, and others all had been on the same footing, a strong Democratic primary would have found some of Cunningham issues. A robust primary may have led to a better candidate while exposing Cunningham’s indiscretions.
However, when out-of-state Washington politicians decide who the candidate is going to be before letting the process work, they do their party and voters no favors as we are now seeing with Cunningham.
#2 We don’t elect paper candidates. We elect real people.
On Saturday, October 3rd, just hours after Cal Cunningham admitted he had been exchanging sexually charged text messages with the wife of soldier of lower rank, voters received a direct mail piece that shows exactly why National Democrats wanted to clear the primary field for Cal Cunningham and support his U.S. Senate run.
Cunningham is perceived by many to be a good-looking patriotic soldier fighting for the country. He has a good-looking family. The perfect bio in many respects.
Cunningham served one term in the State Senate 18 years ago, so he has almost no legislative record to attack.
National Democrats wanted to present a carefully controlled image of his life, avoid him taking firm positions on issues, and market him as a military leader.
Undoubtedly, on paper he is a strong candidate.
But we don’t elect paper candidates. We don’t elect an image. We elect people. Real life people, with real life human frailties, contradictions, failures and success. Did national Democrats see what they wanted to see? Did they love the image of Cal Cunningham so much they forgot to vet, question and challenge the real Cal Cunningham, not the one they crafted?
#3 Candidates sometimes lie to themselves
Politics is full of people who lie, tell half truths, and often differ on what the truth happens to be.
But campaign operatives know the most dangerous lies candidates tell, are the ones to themselves.
What makes powerful politicians like former Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), former Democrat New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, U.S. Rep. Kate Hill (D-California) U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston (R-Colorado) and North Carolina’s own John Edwards behave in unethical, immoral and often unlawful behavior while involved in some of the most high profile positions known to man. What makes them think they can get away with it? Clearly an unfathomable level of arrogance and hubris. A sincere belief they can get away with anything, a false belief of invincibility.
What was Cal Cunningham thinking? How could he put his family, his career and even his personal freedom at risk in such a reckless way?
Only Cal Cunningham can answer that, and only if he tells the truth, because without a doubt, in addition to lying to his family, his supporters, and voters, he seems to have lied to himself.