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WNC political expert weighs in on what weekend chaos may mean for NC Senate race

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Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, left, and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. greet each other after a televised debate Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, Pool)

Chaos erupted in the North Carolina Senate race over the weekend.

“This was a race that folks were paying attention to I think to start with,” said Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper.

On Friday, Republican Senator Thom Tillis announced he tested positive for COVID-19. Tillis was one of hundreds who attended the ceremony announcing Amy Conney Barrett’s nomination for the Supreme Court at the White House last Saturday evening, Sept. 26.

SPOKESPERSON FOR SEN. TILLIS SAYS HE HAS MILD SYMPTOMS AND IS IN "GREAT SPIRITS"

Hours later, his Democrat challenger, Cal Cunningham, admitted to and apologized for sending sexually suggestive texts to a woman who wasn’t his wife.

In one exchange, Cunningham tells the woman he wants to kiss her. The messages were first reported by the website NationalFile.com.

“This was one of the core four Senate races that’s ultimately deciding control of the United States Senate moving forward,” said Cooper.

CUNNINGHAM ADMITS SENDING SEXUALLY SUGGESTIVE TEXTS, WILL NOT BE DROPPING OUT OF RACE

Cooper believes Tillis' COVID-19 diagnosis won’t change a lot of minds.

“Tillis has been pretty responsible on COVID," he said. "He was caught without a mask one time and he actually apologized for it -a rare move for a politician,” added Cooper.

Cooper can’t say the same for Cunningham though.

“Part of Cunningham’s appeal has, of course, been his story and his character and the way he’s portrayed those and so these texts appearing kind of cut against that grain and perhaps might cause some voters to call into question whether Cal Cunningham is the person that he purports to be,” said Cooper.

Cunningham is married with two children.

In a statement Friday, he said he would not be dropping out of the Senate race.

“If more texts come forward, if there’s more reporting to be done on this story, and Cunningham is forced to apologize again, I think that is the kind of thing that may move the needle a little more than the small blip this weekend,” said Cooper.

As for Tillis, he tweeted Monday afternoon that he is doing well while working from home. He says he no longer has any more symptoms.

He also said he looks forward to getting back to Washington to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

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