RALEIGH, NC (AP) — First-term U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn has lost her Republican primary race Tuesday to declare Senator Chuck Edwards, after pro-Donald Trump firebrand personal and political blunders resulted in voter discontent.
Cawthorn called on Edwards to concede the 11th congressional district primary to Edwards, Cawthorn campaign spokesman Luke Ball told The Associated Press. The AP later called the race for Edwards over Cawthorn and six other Republican candidates.
“Against all odds, we fought to win this election and provide clear Conservative leadership for the mountains,” Edwards said in a press release. “Now we’re going to harness that energy, come together as a party, and keep that seat in Republican hands come November.”
Cawhorn, who rose to national prominence after winning the Mountain Region seat in 2020 aged 25, said he would support Edwards in the general election. “It’s time for the NC-11 GOP to rally behind the Republican ticket to defeat the Democratic nominee in November,” he tweeted Tuesday night.
Edwards owns a fast-food franchise that is qualifying for the November election against Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who won Tuesday’s six-candidate Democratic primary.
U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, who backed Edwards, said Cawthorn was an embarrassment to his constituents.
“Republicans chose Chuck Edwards tonight because he is the embodiment of Mountain values who will fight for them every day in Congress with honor and integrity,” Tillis said in a press release.
Cawthorn received negative publicity for speeding and gun violations, as well as calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug”. He also infuriated fellow Republicans in Congress when he alleged on a podcast that he had been invited to an orgy in Washington.
And his initial decision to run for re-election elsewhere — only to return to the 11th District — didn’t sit well with many locals.
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.
Besides the remark about being invited to an orgy, Cawthorn 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!”
Speaking to reporters earlier Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters in Hendersonville with an outcome still uncertain, Cawthorn said Trump’s support had been strong.
“I’ve found that most people in politics, if it’s not politically expedient for them, they’ll turn their backs on you in the blink of an eye,” he said. “But no matter what you’re up against, when Donald Trump backs you, he backs you all the way.”
Perhaps Cawthorn’s biggest political mistake occurred last fall, when he decided to run for another U.S. House seat, which could have led to a re-election bid. easier, to return to the 11th District when the redistricting dispute changed the lines again. Edwards and others accuse Cawthorn of trying to distance himself from his constituents for political reasons.
Edwards, 61, operates McDonald’s franchises in western North Carolina. He joined the state Senate in 2016 and rose through the ranks of seniority in the chamber, taking on more substantial presidencies and action in recent years on small business, guns and immigration.
He championed legislation, opposed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, that would have required all county sheriffs to assist federal immigration and enforcement officials by illegally detaining detainees they believe are in the country.