RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) — U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn faces seven opponents Tuesday in North Carolina’s Republican primary, an early test of whether voters will grant the firebrand pro-Donald Trump another term despite his personal and political stumbles.
Several GOP leaders have turned away from the 26-year-old congressman, some citing a series of unforced errors, such as calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” after Russia invaded his country. Cawthorn also infuriated fellow Republicans in Congress when he alleged on a podcast that he had been invited to an orgy in Washington.
Cawthorn banked on his successful fundraising, social media presence and vocal support for the former president to help him win the nomination for the 11th congressional district again.
State Senator Chuck Edwards, Cawthorn’s chief rival, received the endorsement of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and top state GOP legislative leaders. A Tillis-allied super PAC ran ads against Cawthorn, one of which called it a “reckless embarrassment” and a “dishonest disaster”.
The primary is open to Republican and unaffiliated voters. The leading candidate must obtain more than 30% of the votes to avoid a second round in July. The ultimate winner will face the Democratic and Libertarian candidates in the fall. Six candidates were in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Days after taking office in early 2021, Cawthorn spoke at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally to question Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising. . Cawthorn quickly became a leading spokesperson for Trump’s “America First” policy and the culture wars conservatives. Trump endorsed it.
Cawthorn recently called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” after Russia invaded his country.
Besides the remark about being invited to an orgy, Cawthron said he has seen leaders of the movement to end drug addiction use cocaine. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy publicly chastised him for the remarks.
Cawthorn has been arrested by police three times since October and caught with guns at airport checkpoints twice since last year, including last month. And videos released in the final weeks of the campaign showed Cawthorn in sexually suggestive poses, which he said were from years ago – meant to be funny and nothing more.
Cawthorn acknowledged the speeding and gun citations as failings, but said the videos were part of a “drip campaign” by his political enemies, some of whom he included Republicans , to flood the district with negative stories.
Cawthorn was considered a rising star by many conservatives when in 2020 he won a runoff for the seat vacated by Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.
Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair after being partially paralyzed following a car accident as a teenager, turned 25 – the constitutional minimum age to sit in the House – during the 2020 campaign.
In an election-eve post on his social media site Truth Social, Trump asked primary voters to back him up again: “Recently he made some stupid mistakes, which I don’t believe he will make again… to Madison second chance!”
Perhaps his biggest political mistake came last fall, when he decided to run for another seat in the U.S. House, which could have led to an easier re-election bid. , only to return to the 11th District when the redistricting dispute again altered the lines. Edwards and others accuse Cawthorn of trying to distance himself from his constituents for political reasons.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.