Republicans in Arizona have a new sex scandal to worry about that could put a badly needed congressional seat in jeopardy and create the next “Roy Moore” problem.
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Last December, Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks announced in he was resigning in the wake of a sex scandal (he offered $5 million to impregnate a staffer). Former Arizona state Senator Steve Montenegro is the leading Republican candidate to fill his seat, but now he himself is mired in a sex scandal.
Montenegro, an immigrant from El Salvador and a married minister and father who has billed himself as a “leader of virtue,” has been endorsed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Now it has been revealed that Montenegro has been texting and sexting for months with a female junior state legislative staff member. The texts date back to February 2017 and ended only on November 30.
Republicans in Arizona are worried that Montenegro – who has been leading in the polls – will win the special election primary, leaving them stuck with the next Roy Moore-like candidate accused of sexual misbehavior who won’t go away. This could all but hand Democrats yet another improbable.
Montenegro is claiming this is all a dirty trick by his opponents, but in an interview with the Washington Examiner, he has confirmed that he did communicate with the staffer, Stephanie Holford.
While the memory of Roy Moore’s scandals are fresh on everyone’s mind, the story played out much more like the Anthony Weiner affair. Montenegro and the staffer exchanged a series of texts and photos, including nude photos Holford sent to Montenegro, “which also included explicit discussions on Snapchat,” she said, according to the Arizona Republic.
Tom Ryan, an attorney in Arizona, said that Montenegro “groomed” Holford for an affair.
“Now we see Senator Montenegro basically lying in the press about the affair and saying he never solicited anything,” Ryan told reporters at a news conference outside the state Senate.
In a statement, read by Ryan, Holford said she had at first texted with Montenegro about work matters but “in a very short time” the conversations became personal.
“Over the months we began to flirt,” she said, and over time she became comfortable enough to send him pictures of herself in “various states of undress” while having conversations that were “detailed and intimate.”
She said Montenegro asked for the photos on Snapchat because photos disappear after a short time, leaving no digital trail.
Montenegro called Ryan “the Gloria Allred of Arizona,” referring to the Los Angeles lawyer who has represented many women in sexual harassment cases.
Montenegro claims it was all “political theater” and “a pack of lies” to impact the election.
In a statement, Montenegro said: “I have already made clear that Ms. Holford and I were friends, that while I allowed our friendship to become too familiar, and that she did, without solicitation from me, send me an inappropriate picture, I never had (an) inappropriate relationship with her or anyone else.’
What is clear is that Montenegro is another Republican hypocrite who had fun flirting and laying the ground work for more, but then found religion when a harsh light was shined on his dirty little secret.
Arizona is a solidly Republican state that went for Trump in the 2016 election, so there is no assurance this will benefit Democrats; in fact, Montenegro claims it was leaked by his Republican opponent in the primary (she denies it).
Once again, the more pious a person acts, the more there is to wonder what is behind the façade. Now after a glimpse behind Montenegro’s curtain, it is clear he is now what he claims.