Yesterday was primary day here in North Carolina. One race in particular grabbed national attention. That was the Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District. This district has been represented this term by Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC11) who is the youngest member of Congress. Cawthorn faced seven challengers in this primary. Multiple stories had been written on this race over the last couple of months by every media organization ranging from Politico to the National Review with the NY Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal in the middle.
Cawthorn was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and the NRA-PVF. As the incumbent, Cawthorn was given the PVF endorsement. Given his issues discussed later, I think this was a mistake.
Meanwhile, his strongest challenger was St. Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson). Edwards was supported by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), and NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) among others. Edwards was recommended by the Grass Roots North Carolina-Political Victory Fund. GRNC-PVF noted that Edwards had a 100% pro-gun voting record in the NC Senate, holds a FFL, and had helped GRNC pass pro-gun legislation in the General Assembly.
Other challengers included Matthew Burril, a financial advisor; Rod Honeycutt, a retired US Army colonel; Bruce O’Connell, a businessman and owner of the Pisgah Inn; Michelle Woodhouse, former 11th District GOP Chair and businesswoman; Wendy Navarez, a Navy vet and volunteer; and Kristie Sluder, a social worker. All the challengers except Navarez are conservatives. Navarez is a moderate who was being pushed by Moe Davis who was the Democrat that Cawthorn beat in 2020.
The results came in quickly. Edwards held the lead the entire evening and Cawthorn conceded in a call to him a bit after 10pm. Under North Carolina election law, in a multi-candidate primary, the candidate who has 30% or more is the winner without a runoff. If more than one candidate gets about 30%, then it is the candidate with the most votes over 30%. In this case, Edwards won 33.4% of the vote to Cawthorn’s 31.9%. While Cawthorn did better in the smaller, far western counties of the district, Edwards took both Buncombe and Henderson Counties which are the two largest in the district. Henderson, it should be noted, is the home county of both Cawthorn and Edwards.
This primary was as much a referendum on Cawthorn and his performance than anything else. Cawthorn had issues and I’m not talking about political positions. Some could be overlooked and some were just beyond the pale. He had been stopped twice by TSA for trying to board a plane with a firearm. He had been stopped for driving on a suspended license while speeding. Pictures surfaced of him dressed in women’s lingerie and engaging in questionable behavior with his cousin. His marriage ended in divorce after eight months. His unfounded allegations of cocaine parties and orgies on Capitol Hill for which he recanted. The list goes on.
However, what could not be overlooked was his immaturity, his ineffectiveness in Washington, his lack of constituent service, and, most importantly, his willingness to abandon the district for another when he thought it would put him in a larger media market. When the state’s original redistricting plan was overturned by the NC Supreme Court on a partisan vote, Cawthorn announced he would run for re-election in his original district. Meanwhile, a number of candidates including Edwards had already declared they were running in the 11th District when Cawthorn had to return to the 11th. They did not drop out as he may have expected.
When all was said and done, over 68% of the primary voters went for someone other than Cawthorn despite his endorsement by Trump and his advantage of incumbency. I supported Edwards because I think he will get stuff done and he was stronger on the Second Amendment. When you look over the field of candidates, everyone other than Cawthorn had held a real job, had success in their careers, had managed people, and many had been responsible for meeting a payroll.
Cawthorn, despite his age and injuries, could have grown in the job but didn’t. He went for the publicity and fawning accolades as opposed to effectiveness. It was show over substance and that is what caught up with him. He got political success too soon in life and I don’t think he had the intellectual maturity to handle it. I think we all wish him well in life but are relieved that he won’t be in office much longer.