North Carolina Republicans are bracing for a shake-up Tuesday spawned by a 25-year-old congressman named Madison Cawthorn, a paraplegic survivor of a near-fatal car crash who has called his own party “xenophobic, feckless and devoid of empathy — all while aligning himself closely with a president accused of embodying those very traits,” Politico reported.
It’s a competitive race that began with last year’s court mandated re-districting of the city of Ashville, a liberal enclave in the conservative state. Even with the new lines drawn, Trump would have carried this district by 17 points in 2016. But the race is much closer than anticipated now — in large part due to Cawthorn’s extreme right viewpoints. In fact, Cawthorn has the makings to being as disruptive to the right as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is to the left.
“I definitely am running against the Republican Party,” he said in an interview this week, calling the GOP “timid” on everything from race to immigration to health care. “They’re a party that doesn’t try to tackle real issues. They are a party that always says no to things.”
Polls from both parties are showing a single-digit race leading into Election Day. The deep-red seat is in high demand — Republicans have already spent over $700,000 in TV spots to boost Cawthorn in the race. Their fear of losing the seat has prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to hold frequent strategy calls with the Cawthorn campaign, according to sources familiar with the sessions. Cawthorn has also regularly spoken with President Donald J. Trump.
This race was never a quiet one. Mark Meadows angered local Republicans in December 2019 when he announced a surprise retirement, just hours before the filing deadline. Cawthorn came from behind to beat Lynda Bennett — a friend of the Meadows family whom both Trump and Meadows endorsed — in a primary runoff.
Cawthorn is running now against Democratic candidate Moe Davis, a 62-year-old former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay who has taught law, served as a judge and worked as a congressional aide on national-security issues. On the trail, he repeatedly cast Cawthorn as a clueless 20-something “with no education, no training, no experience that qualifies him for the job.”
Davis has a chance of winning the GOP-established seat if he can run up the margins in Asheville and hold his own in the rural counties. Cawthorn’s team is mostly comprised of young and inexperienced campaigners, which has made the race closer than it ever should have been. Cawthorn outraised Davis by more than $2.3 million last quarter, but he is spending $400,000 less in TV ads than his challenger.