Madison Cawthorn, a first-term Henderson County congressman who has gained national prominence for his right-wing, pro-Donald Trump views, plans not to run in his home district in Western North Carolina.
Congressional maps approved Nov. 4 by the General Assembly put Cawthorn’s home county of Henderson in the new 14th District, along with most of what is traditionally considered WNC. Those 15 counties include Buncombe, Madison and Transylvania. Watauga County was not in the former district but has been added to the 14th, minus a small sliver.
But, according to Michele Woodhouse, the chair of the Republican organization for the current district represented by Cawthorn, the congressman has said he is looking to run instead in 2022 for the neighboring new 13th District. Counties in that district are Polk, Rutherford, McDowell, Burke, Cleveland, Gaston and part of Mecklenburg, home of Charlotte.
“We had a call last night. Congressman Cawthorn asked me to put together a call with the leadership of the 11th District. And he shared with all of us very clearly that he is considering running in the 13th, but the decision has not been made,” Woodhouse said Nov. 11.
Cawthorn’s potential change of plans was first reported by the Carolina Journal.
Cawthorn’s campaign later Nov. 11 released a statement confirming the decision.
“Our state is growing and changing rapidly. We now have a brand-new congressional district, and as it stands, the new lines have split my constituents,” Cawthorn said in the release. “My house is almost directly on the line of separation for the 13th and the 14th Congressional districts, and now half of the counties in the new district are counties I currently represent. My people are split, and I am forced to make a very difficult decision. Ultimately, I have to answer this question: what choice would enable me to make the greatest impact on the affairs of our state and our nation, so that our children and grandchildren can inherit the best version of America we can possibly give them? After consulting my family, my constituents, and with prayerful consideration, the answer is clear. I will be running for congress in the 13th congressional district,”
A candidate is not required to live in the congressional district in which she or he is running, though the candidate must live in the same state, the Constitution says.
Cawthorn spokesperson Luke Ball did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
A Nov. 10 Cawthorn mass fundraising email makes no mention of a district change. In the email sent by campaign manager Blake Harp, Cawthorn said he hoped the headline would be, “Youngest Congressman Re-Elected as Republicans Take the House in a Landslide.”
He says his “Democratic opponent has money flooding in from all sorts of special interest groups and Washington elites.” But it is not clear which opponent he means.
Before facing any Democrat in the new 13th or 14th districts, he would first have to compete in GOP primaries against opponents who might include North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. There are nine Democrats who have declared for districts that roughly align with the new 13th and 14th.
Pending legal action by opponents alleging illegal gerrymandering, the 14th still favors a Republican, but has created “a path” for a Democrat to win, Western Carolina University political expert Chris Cooper said.
Cawthorn, 26, has made recent news for his role in planning the Jan. 6 events in Washington that led to the Capitol riot, according to Rolling Stone.
On Oct. 19 he introduced a bill to ban vaccine requirements for interstate travel and has drawn warnings from law enforcement for entering school facilities with weapons, including a fixed-blade dagger strapped under the wheelchair that he uses following a 2014 car accident.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.