Army Reserve officer Lt. Col. James “Cal” Cunningham, a Democrat running for a crucial U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, has been facing public scrutiny over an extramarital affair just weeks away from Election Day.
Now, Army officials say they’re also taking a look at the situation involving the 47-year-old married father of two, which could violate rules concerning adultery under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“The Army Reserve is investigating the matters involving Lt. Col. James Cunningham. As such, we are unable to provide further details at this time,” said Army Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Simon B. Flake in a statement to Army Times.
Flake was unable to answer follow-up questions, including whether an Army Regulation 15-6 investigation has been opened. But because Cunningham is a reservist, the extramarital affair may not be punishable unless he was serving on active duty at the time of the indiscretions, according to the Reserve Officers Association.
Text messages first published last week by a conservative website, the National File, suggested a personal relationship between Cunningham and a public relations strategist from California named Arlene Guzman Todd.
Guzman Todd confirmed their relationship went beyond text messages on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. She told the wire service that her and Cunningham met in-person once in March in Los Angeles and again in July in North Carolina. The July meeting involved an “intimate” encounter, the AP reported.
Cunningham has been an Army Reserve judge advocate since 2002, service records show. He is currently assigned to the 134th Legal Operations Detachment under Army Reserve Legal Command.
In a statement to the AP, Guzman Todd apologized for what she called “a lapse in judgment” during “a period of marital separation.”
“The relationship spanned several months and consisted primarily of a series of text exchanges and an in-person encounter," she said.
Cunningham, who has a modest lead in the polls against Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, said late last week that he will not drop out of the race.
“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,” Cunningham said in a statement to the Raleigh News and Observer.
The AP reported that Cunningham and Guzman Todd were intimate in his home, which Guzman Todd characterized as “weird" in text messages to her friend.
Guzman Todd also texted her friend about her frustration with the senate candidate, which the AP reported was due to the limited attention Cunningham showed her.
“I’m just going to send to his opponent his naked photos,” Guzman Todd wrote. “That will teach him.”
However, the relationship was not one-sided. In text messages, Cunningham said he had “the most amazing dreams of our time together” and later added that it would “make my day to roll over and kiss you about now.”
It is unclear how the two individuals became romantically involved. One of the text messages seems to indicate they have known each other for some time.
“Happy belated birthday..." Cunningham wrote in one text, referring to Guzman Todd’s son. "Cannot believe he’s 8 years old!!! He was so little when we met!”
Guzman Todd’s husband served 15 years in the Army. His service included five combat deployments and a stint at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, according to a story published by the University of Southern California in 2016, where he was graduate student at the time.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.