Steve Montenegro, the Republican candidate for the Arizona 8th Congressional District special election, is refusing to resign from the race despite admitting receiving nude selfies from an ex-felon female staffer during his time in the Arizona State Senate.
SNAP – you’re embroiled in a sex scandal!
Tom Ryan, the attorney of the staffer, Stephanie Holford, held a press conference yesterday where he set out the timeline of events from his client’s point of view.
According to Ryan, the two began texting regularly for nearly a year staring in February 2017.
“He was grooming her for a sexual relationship,” he argued.
As well as handing out transcripts of the year’s worth of text messages (which have been printed in full in the Arizona Republic), Ryan also read out a statement from his client.
In the statement Holford explained:
“Over the months, we began to flirt. 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 send them on Snapchat instead. We engaged in sexual conversation about these pictures. These conversations were detailed and intimate.”
According to the released transcripts, Montenegro did not object to Holford sending the nude selfies – just the platform she sent them on.
After sending Holford sent one via a normal text message she asked Montenegro to delete it afterwards. The Senator instead suggested she switch to SnapChat.
Holford: “You have to delete these.”
Steve Montenegro channels Bill Clinton
Steve Montenegro is a married father of one and, in addition to his political career, an Associate Pastor of Surprise Apostolic Assembly in Surprise, Arizona. He denies that the relationship turned sexual.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner the day before Ryan’s press conference he channelled Bill Clinton when he said, “I want you to know I did not have any inappropriate relationships with this woman.
“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.”
Montenegro might not admit to soliciting nude selfies from Stephanie Holford, but he did admit to texting with Holford and using SnapChat in the past to share family photos.
He also admitted to the Examiner that he received a nude selfie from Holford, but instead of asking her to move to SnapChat, he claims he told his wife about it. The only thing he admits to doing wrong is getting too close to a colleague.
“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 said. He claims he stopped all communication with Holford after receiving the selfie.
In the Examiner interview Montenegro labelled the photo of Holford “revenge porn.” This is the second instance of revenge porn becoming a political issue in the Arizona legislature this year.
But characterising the nude selfies of Holford as revenge porn indicates that Montenegro does not really understand what revenge porn actually is. The leaked nude selfies came to light and were circulated following their discovery by Holford’s ex-boyfriend, not one of Montenegro’s political opponents.
Ryan: Montenegro a “shithead” and a “moral toad”
With the Republican primary just three days away, Steve Montenegro is doing his best to distract voters from the raging scandal. Characterizing the sexting allegations as “false and defamatory,” he is accusing his main opponent Debbie Lesko of illegal coordination between her campaign and a federal political action committee.
Whatever the truth of Montenegro’s allegation, it seems unlikely a story of financial wrongdoing will push allegations of soliciting nude selfies from a staffer off the headlines.
But as we learn more about Stephanie Holford’s story there is more reason to doubt Montenegro’s judgement generally. The images of Holford being used in coverage by the media come from the Arizona Department of Corrections. Holford is a convicted felon following a conviction for aggravated assault. Specifically, in 2006 she drove her car into an airport shuttle while intoxicated, injuring three. After serving nine years of her sentence she was released in 2015.
She began working for the Arizona State Senate in January 2017, a month before her texts began with Montenegro. Her status as a felon was disclosed to the legislature before she was hired, and Montenegro had no part in her hiring.
As an ex-con putting her life back together, Holford would undoubtedly be a much more vulnerable person than your average new Senate staffer.
Her attorney Tom Ryan did not hold back in an interview with the Phoenix New Times, referring to Montenegro as a “shithead.”
He told the newspaper that Holford was a victim twice over during his interview, “burned by her ex-boyfriend who obtained her topless photo and texts, and burned by a powerful ex-state senator who’s a ‘moral toad.'”
“This is a guy who wanted sexual gratification by getting what he wanted, which is her picture,” he said.
The voters of Arizona’s 8th Congressional district will get to make their own judgement on Steve Montenegro at the upcoming primary vote on Tuesday, February 27th.