After coming under fire for weeks within his own party, Representative Madison Cawthorn’s political future is in jeopardy, as North Carolina voters cast their primary ballots Tuesday in the 11th Congressional District race.
Cawthorn is being challenged by state Senator Chuck Edwards, who has been endorsed by Republican senator Thom Tillis, along with several other Republicans vying for the seat, including Rod Honeycutt, Michele Woodhouse, and Matthew Burril. If no candidate receives more than 30% of the vote after Tuesday’s primary, a July 26 runoff will take place between the two Republicans who receive the most votes.
Though Cawthorn won the district’s general election by more than 12 points in 2020, staying on the Republican ticket in 2022 has been a challenge. Tillis, North Carolina’s junior senator, began pushing to depose Cawthorn in March after the freshman lawmaker claimed on a podcast that he had witnessed the “sexual perversion that goes on in Washington.” Cawthorn, the youngest member of the House, went on to say that fellow lawmakers had invited him to an orgy and that he had seen prominent political leaders use cocaine in front of him.
Cawthorn, who, along with far-right representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, has been among Donald Trump’s most loyal defenders, got a last-minute vote of confidence from the former president. “When Madison was first elected to Congress, he did a great job,” the former president wrote Sunday night in a post on Truth Social, the Twitter competitor that he founded. “Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again…let’s give Madison a second chance!” Until this week, Trump had largely remained quiet during Cawthorn’s litany of intraparty issues.
The 26-year-old congressman’s other recent scandals include bringing a loaded firearm into an airport, a leaked video showing a nude Cawthorn humping a “friend,” and insider trading allegations related to his involvement in a right-wing cryptocurrency, which he has denied. While responding to the leaked clip in question, released by the American Muckrakers PAC, Cawthorn called it “a new hit against me,” adding, “Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny. We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it.” The American Muckrakers PAC has also filed an ethics complaint accusing Cawthorn of breaking House rules by partially financing the travel and living expenses of a second cousin who happens to be one of his congressional aides.
In an April poll commissioned by the Republican GOPAC Election Fund, data showed that support for Cawthorn among his constituents has waned, dipping from 49% in March to 38%. But those findings were released before Cawthorn’s latest controversies.
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy publicly criticized Cawthorn following his “unacceptable” claims of being invited to orgies and seeing people do cocaine, urging the lawmaker to “turn himself around,” after the two held a private meeting. McCarthy said that Cawthorn told him he had “exaggerated” the allegations. McCarthy has also stated Cawthorn was “wrong” to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug.”
The post Can a Last-Minute Trump Lifeline Save Madison Cawthorn? appeared first on Vanity Fair.