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Arizona GOP congressional candidate swept up in sexting case

A week before the primary in the Arizona House special election, a leading Republican candidate's campaign is being r...

Posted: Feb 24, 2018 10:02 AM
Updated: Feb 24, 2018 10:02 AM

A week before the primary in the Arizona House special election, a leading Republican candidate's campaign is being roiled by an alleged cyber-affair with a former state Senate staffer.

Former state Sen. Steve Montenegro, who is running to fill former US Rep. Trent Franks' vacant seat, and the Senate GOP's former digital media coordinator, Stephanie Holford, exchanged flirtatious text messages last year, the Arizona Republic reported.

Holford also sent Montenegro -- a married minister who bills himself as a "leader of virtue" -- a topless photo. Both Holford, through her attorney, and Montenegro in an interview confirmed that the photo was sent.

In a statement read by her attorney, Tom Ryan, Thursday at a news conference, Holford said her ex-boyfriend "snuck onto my computer and stole my private information and began to shop it around to the media."

Ryan said Holford is the victim of revenge porn.

"I'm considering what legal actions I may have for his involvement in this matter," Holford said, adding that it was never her intent to make the texts with Montenegro public.

Arizona has a revenge porn law that makes it a felony for anyone to disclose photos or information of another individual engaging in sex or in a state of nudity with intent to hurt, harass or intimidate that person.

Holford was hired as a digital media coordinator in 2017 and the texting communication with Montenegro began in February of last year, according to her statement read by Ryan.

She said at first the text messages between them were professional, but soon -- "in a very short amount of time" -- Montenegro started sharing personal information during off-work hours, and soon turned to flirting.

"I felt comfortable enough with the relationship that I began to send pictures of myself in various states of undress. Sen. Montenegro asked me to sent them on Snapchat instead. We engaged in sexual conversation about these pictures. These conversations were detailed and intimate," Holford said in the statement that Ryan read.

Snapchat allows users to send photos and video messages which disappear after being opened and viewed for a few seconds by recipients. Because the photos were sent via Snapchat, Holford has no record of them. According to Ryan, Holford said Montenegro never sent similar photos to her.

Holford said that eventually the messaging stopped.

In December, Montenegro resigned his Senate seat to run in the special election for Arizona's 8th Congressional District after Franks resigned over a sexual harassment allegation. The Republican primary is next Tuesday.

Holford said Montenegro contacted her shortly after Franks' resignation last December to "make sure I was 'cool' and not going to be talking about our texting, Snapping relationship."

When the content of the text messages were first reported on Tuesday, Montenegro dismissed it as "false tabloid trash" in a statement.

But in an interview with The Washington Examiner published two days later, Montenegro confirmed he exchanged text messages and received a nude photo from Holford.

He said after receiving the photo, he told his wife and broke off communication with Holford.

"If there is anything I would say I'm guilty of, it's becoming too comfy or familiar as seen in some of those texts," Montenegro told The Washington Examiner.

He also denied soliciting the inappropriate photos or text messages and said he "did not have any inappropriate relationships" with Holford. Holford, through her attorney, said the two never had a physical relationship.

During Thursday's news conference, Ryan accused Montenegro of "lying in the press about the affair and saying he never solicited anything."

"He was grooming her for a sexual relationship," Ryan told reporters Thursday after reading from Holford's statement. "You will find out these are, in its politest terms, not very senatorial at all."

Montenegro hit back at Ryan later, calling Ryan's allegations "not just false and defamatory, but dangerously so."

"This was political theater and a pack of lies to effect this race," Montenegro wrote on Facebook Thursday.

"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," the GOP candidate wrote. "I am confident the voters will see through these deplorable pack of lies thrown out by a liberal attorney with a clear agenda of attacking conservatives."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyCasesDeaths
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Hinds9584195
Harrison6848109
Jackson6124118
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Forrest368186
Jones345287
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Clarke88553
Clay87027
Jasper81122
Walthall75028
Stone72414
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71613
Carroll70614
Lawrence70214
Yalobusha69427
Noxubee69217
Smith68816
Perry65225
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54217
Humphreys52618
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Benton48417
Quitman4796
Webster42014
Kemper40917
Wilkinson38622
Jefferson33811
Franklin3235
Choctaw3077
Sharkey30617
Issaquena1114
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 236865

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31043491
Mobile19446360
Tuscaloosa12684150
Madison12528146
Montgomery12122235
Shelby992276
Baldwin837684
Lee759765
Morgan626247
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Walker356199
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Jackson302524
Colbert297641
Blount282236
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Franklin246233
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Dale228454
Dallas222331
Russell21923
Chilton218537
Covington215933
Escambia196931
Tallapoosa171790
Chambers171448
Pike156014
Clarke155319
Marion135535
Winston126623
Lawrence123936
Geneva11848
Pickens117618
Marengo117424
Barbour116710
Bibb115717
Butler114341
Randolph100321
Cherokee99624
Hale93231
Washington89918
Clay89623
Fayette86216
Henry8436
Lowndes78929
Monroe77911
Cleburne75614
Macon71720
Crenshaw70330
Bullock69019
Conecuh68214
Perry6726
Lamar6337
Wilcox62818
Sumter56222
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Greene41317
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