RALEIGH, NC (AP) — First-term U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn has conceded in the Republican Congressional primary against North Carolina State Sen. Chuck Edwards.
Luke Ball, a spokesman for Cawthorn’s campaign, told The Associated Press late Tuesday that Cawthorn had abandoned the race. Edwards, a fast-food franchise owner, is now advancing on Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara in November’s election.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
US Rep. Madison Cawthorn fought to keep her seat in western North Carolina on Tuesday and faced a fierce challenge from a state legislature in the Republican primary.
With the most votes counted, election results in the 11th district Republican primary showed the first-term congressman and pro-Donald-Trump-Brander trailing slightly behind state senator Chuck Edwards.
Six other GOP candidates were in the running, in what became a test of whether voters would grant Cawthorn another term despite his personal and political stumbles.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday night, with the outcome still uncertain, Cawthorn said he believes Edwards will eliminate the deficit and win without the need for a runoff.
“If you have your back against the wall, I’ve found that most people in politics, if it doesn’t make political sense to them, they’ll immediately turn their backs on you,” Cawthorn said Tuesday night. “But no matter what you face, if Donald Trump has your back, he’ll have your back to the end.”
Several GOP leaders have backed away from the 26-year-old congressman, with some citing a series of unforced blunders such as labeling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug” after Russia invaded his country. Cawthorn also enraged fellow Republicans in Congress when he claimed on a podcast that he had been invited to an orgy in Washington.
Cawthorn has relied on his successful fundraising, social media presence and vocal support for the former president to help him win the 11th congressional district nomination again.
Edwards, an owner of McDonald’s franchises, received support from US Senator Thom Tillis and the top legislative leaders of the state’s GOP. A super PAC allied with Tillis ran ads against Cawthorn, one of which called him a “reckless embarrassment” and a “dishonest disaster.”
The primary was open to Republican and non-partisan voters. Both Edwards and Cawthorn had received more than 30% of the vote Tuesday night, so a July runoff could be averted if that is true.
The ultimate winner will face off against Democratic and Libertarian candidates in the fall. Six candidates were in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.
Within days of taking office in early 2021, Cawthorn was speaking at the “Stop the Steal” rally and questioning Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election that preceded the Jan. 6 riot in the Capitol. Cawthorn soon became a leading spokesman for Trump’s “America First” policies and conservatives in the culture wars. Trump supported him.
Aside from noting being invited to an orgy, Cawthron said he’s seen leaders in the movement to end drug addiction using cocaine. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy publicly rebuked him for the comments.
Cawthorn has been stopped by police three times for a driving ban since October and has been caught with guns at airport security twice since last year, including last month. And videos released in the final weeks of the campaign showed Cawthorn in sexually suggestive poses that he said were from a number of years ago — meant to be funny and nothing else.
Cawthorn acknowledged speeding and gun citations as flaws, but said the videos were part of a “drip campaign” by his political enemies, which he included some Republicans, to flood the borough with negative stories.
Cawthorn was seen as a rising star by many conservatives when he won a first runoff election in 2020 for the seat vacated by Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.
Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair after being partially paralyzed in a car accident as a teenager, turned 25 during the 2020 campaign — the minimum constitutional age for service in the House of Representatives.
In an election night post on his social media page Truth Social, Trump urged primary voters to support him again: “Recently he’s made some stupid mistakes that I don’t think he’ll make again… let’s admit.” Madison a second chance !”
His biggest political blunder may have happened last fall when he decided to run for another seat in the US House of Representatives, which could have resulted in an easier re-election only to return to the 11th district than the redistribution of Litigation shifted the lines again. Edwards and others have accused Cawthorn of trying to distance himself from his constituents for political reasons.
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