Republican congressional candidate Steve Montenegro, who is running to replace disgraced Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, copped to receiving a topless photograph of a junior state legislative staffer, but said he did nothing inappropriate.
The admission came less than 72 hours after he called initial media reports of the racy exchange “false tabloid trash.”
But the former state senator, who resigned to run for Franks’ seat, did not have an inappropriate relationship with the staffer, he told the Washington Examiner, adding that he even notified his wife when the picture appeared in his text messages.
“I want you to know I did not have any inappropriate relationships with this woman,” Montenegro told the Examiner Wednesday. “At no time have I been inappropriately involved with any staffer — nor have I ever. I have not solicited inappropriate material via text message or any other message.”
That is untrue, Stephanie Holford, the staffer, said through her attorney at a press conference Thursday.Watch: Candidates to Watch in Arizona’s Special Election Primaries
Holford sent Montenegro nude images on Snapchat on multiple occasions, and the two engaged in explicit conversations on the app, her lawyer, Tom Ryan, said.
“Now we see Senator Montenegro basically lying in the press about the affair and saying he never solicited anything,” Ryan said.
They initially texted about work, but the nature of the conversations soon changed, the attorney said.
“Over the months we began to flirt,” Holford said through Ryan. Eventually, she sent pictures of herself “in various states of undress” and engaged in “detailed and intimate” conversations.
“Senator Montenegro asked me to send [pictures] on Snapchat instead. Because they were sent through Snapchat I do not have copies of them,” Holford said in the statement.
A string of text messages between Montenegro and Holford revealed by multiple outlets on Tuesday show Montenegro was worried about being brought down by a harassment scandal similar to the one that led to Franks’ resignation.
“You would never have to worry about me,” the staffer responds. “So I hope that puts you at some ease. I just saw the Trent Franks thing.”
In response, Montenegro says “crazy,” and the staffer replies “LOL Who needs it.”
In one of the messages, Montenegro suggests the staffer use Snapchat.
After the staffer sent a photo of her posing topless in a bathroom, she says, “You have to delete these.” Montenegro then writes “Snap” in reference to Snapchat, an app in which messages and photos self-destruct after they have been viewed.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Montenegro said that he was targeted because he is a conservative and that the media wanted to wanted to destroy his campaign with a week left before the primary.
“As a Hispanic conservative I knew they would stop at nothing to prevent me from going to Washington DC and fighting for the working families of our district just like I fought for the people at the State Capitol,” he wrote.
Voting for Arizona’s 8th District special election primary ends next Tuesday.
Franks resigned amid allegations he asked two women staffers to bear children as surrogates for him and his wife.