Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn is fighting for his political life as both his constituents and his colleagues criticize the freshman lawmaker’s well-publicized legal troubles – and less than “conservative” antics. Once considered a rising star in the GOP, the controversial congressman is losing support – and fast.
State Republican leaders are throwing their endorsements behind Cawthorn’s GOP #1 primary opponent – State Senator Chuck Edwards. Edwards has spent over $300,000 on attack ads and fliers detailing Cawthorn’s many controversies funded by Results For NC, the super PAC backed by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC).
One example is this ad shown on Queen City News in the state’s largest city of Charlotte which accuses Cawthorn of spreading “lies for the limelight.”
Senator Tillis has been vocal in his criticism of Cawthorn, previously calling for an investigation into the overexposed freshman congressman for insider trading and publicly promoting the cryptocurrency LGBCoin, causing an extreme surge in value.
Tillis dropped a gauntlet in this accusatory post on Twitter:
Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation. There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee. #ncpol https://t.co/3s1UJMk1tj
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) April 27, 2022
But Tillis, a former Speaker of the North Carolina House, was fed up with Cawthorn’s questionable behavior long before this.
In June 2021, Cawthorn issued a press release on his official government website, taking credit for an amendment to Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that brought broadband to rural North Carolina.
In it, Cawthorn said:
“Tapping into the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and work ethic of people in Western North Carolina through rural broadband will benefit not just NC-11 but our state and nation. This is true for rural areas across our country. America’s greatest resource is its people. The ROBUST Act will help ensure we’re being good stewards of that resource and leaving no one behind.”
Cawthorn, however, actually voted against the bill, and Tillis called him out for it, telling Politico:
“Don’t go out in western North Carolina and say you brought broadband there when you voted against the very bill he criticized me for to get there.”
Congressman Cawthorn’s constituents have also criticized the often distracted lawmaker. With seven challengers in the North Carolina GOP primary on May 17th, the sense of security that usually comes with being the incumbent seems to have disappeared. Aside from Cawthorn’s very public legal troubles – attempting to take a loaded gun through security, driving with a revoked license, and accusations of insider trading – his primary opponent Sen. Edwards told NBC News:
“What folks are concerned with here is they don’t feel that they have a voice in Washington, D.C., because our congressman has been jet-setting around the country, getting involved in other races, going to other events.”
The owner of Johnson Family Farm, Kirby Johnson, has switched his support from Cawthorn to Edwards, telling an NBC reporter “I’ve only asked him for one thing, and I didn’t get it – never heard a word.” And constituent Susan Newman referred to him as a “hot mess,” saying, “I don’t really see him doing anything in the district – and he just keeps getting in trouble.”
Another point of contention with voters is the congressman’s announcement to leave his district and run in the newly formed 13th congressional district. His current district the 11th – a noted conservative stronghold —was redrawn and renamed as the more liberal-leaning 14th congressional district.
Cawthorn walked his decision back after receiving backlash, but not before alienating constituents in his current district and angering Susan Tillis, the wife of Senator Tillis. In response to Cawthorn’s statement that “I am afraid that another establishment go-along-to-get-along Republican would prevail there, Mrs. Tillis tweeted:
@DallasWoodhouse I can assure you that those of us in the new 13 didn't need any intervention and we are capable of making our own decisions.
— Susan Tillis (@susantillis) November 12, 2021
After this tweet was posted, according to Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post, Cawthorn texted the Senator to ask why his wife was “attacking him.”
Madison Cawthorn texted Thom Tillis asking why Tillis' wife was attacking him on Twitter.
“Just spit ballin here,” Tillis replied, “but maybe because you’ve attacked her husband?”
Amazing stuff via @iarnsdorf https://t.co/z406KQRGTk
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) May 10, 2022
Cawthorn has dismissed the criticism, saying in a video, “I’ve really never seen the swamp launch such a coordinated attack against any individual in politics except for Donald Trump.” This comes after American Muckrakers PAC, founders of the anti-Cawthorn website, FireMadison.com, leaked a video that appears to show the congressman simulating sex with a male “friend.”
American Muckrakers filed an ethics complaint against Cawthorn and a member of his staff for several violations listed here. They include allegations of providing gifts and loans to House staff member Stephen L. Smith and failing to properly disclose them to the House. In September they hired Paul Reid for their board. Reid, former Republican candidate for NC State House – and a resident of Cawthorn’s district – has expressed his disappointment in what Muckrakers calls a “serial insurrectionist.” He explained his position in a statement:
“Madison, sadly, is my congressman. He is a liar. He is not representing those in Western NC who need help. He’s taking big money donations from big medical interests – whose interests do not extend to the people of Western NC. He’s simply gotta go.”
With just one day left before the primary, Cawthorn is facing an uphill battle. But, with a crowded field vying for Western North Carolina’s 14th district, Cawthorn only needs to secure a little over 30% of the vote to retain the Republican congressional nomination.
Fox News pundit Sean Hannity may have summed it up best when he said during an interview on Phoenix, Arizona’s KYFI-AM, “It sounds to me like he needs some sort of intervention or help.”
We’re inclined to agree.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick