The chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party stepped down from his post Tuesday amid a scandal of sexually charged text messages and an explicit photo he sent to a woman running for Philadelphia City Council.
Valentino “Val” DiGiorgio III, 51, stepped down from the his position with the Pennsylvania GOP shortly after the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on a text message exchange he had with onetime Republican candidate for Philadelphia City Council Irina Goldstein.
The exchange began last October and lasted four months.
According to The Inquirer, DiGiorgio, who is married, and Goldstein, who is single, began communicating after she commented on a photo on Facebook in which DiGiorgio appeared.
After Goldstein recognized DiGiorgio, she messaged him to seek advice for her City Council bid.
“I’m running for City Council,” she said, adding, “next time you’re in Philly, I’d be honored to buy you coffee.”
The text conversation went from advice seeking to flirting to sexually charged exchanges to DiGiorgio sending Goldstein a photo of his erect penis.
DiGiorgio said in a statement that the texts between him and Goldstein were “entirely consensual” and that accusations of harassment or abuse of power are “fundamentally untrue.”
“I extend my deepest apologies to my family and colleagues for this unfortunate distraction," he wrote, adding: "I intend to vigorously defend myself against these assertions and protect my family, my colleagues, and the party from this private matter.”
Goldstein continued the text exchange with DiGiorgio after receiving the explicit picture, and, at times either referenced or explicitly cited sex acts in her exchanges with the Republican leader. The former City Council candidate, however, said she began to grow embarrassed by the texts, citing that that DiGiorgio had “the upper hand,” and ultimately stopped communications with him after sending a written exchange in which she told him his messages amounted to him “sexually harassing” her.
“When a person has that much clout and power, I feel he abused that. And that was not necessary,” Goldstein told The Inquirer following DiGiorgio’s decision to step down.
Following DiGiorgio’s departure, the party’s vice chair, Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort, assumed the position as acting chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.