North Carolina Democrat seeking Senate seat apologizes over sex-themed texts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic challenger for a U.S. Senate seat for North Carolina has issued a public apology after sending sexually themed text messages to a woman who is not his wife.

“I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry,” former state senator Cal Cunningham said in a statement released late on Friday.

Images of the text messages surfaced earlier this week on conservative news website The images showed Cunningham and a woman discussing kissing one another and the possibility of a furtive meeting.

An official with Cunningham’s campaign said the images of the text messages were authentic.

The messages threaten to shake up what is widely seen as a tight race between Cunningham and the Republican incumbent, Senator Thom Tillis.

The contest, part of Nov. 3 elections that include the race between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, could determine which party has control of the U.S. Senate.

Democrats would need to win at least three Republican-held seats for a majority, if Biden wins the White House, giving his running mate Kamala Harris a tie-breaking Senate vote, or four seats if Biden loses.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters conducted Sept. 11-16 showed the race between Cunningham and Tillis appeared to be a toss-up.

Tillis disclosed on Friday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, and said he would isolate at home for 10 days.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Dan Grebler