Cawthorn wins election to fill seat vacated by Meadows
Madison Cawthorn is projected to win his election on Tuesday to fill the vacant House seat in North Carolina left by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, which will make him the youngest member of Congress when he takes office in January.
Cawthorn tweeted shortly after the race was called by the Associated Press.
Cry more, lib.
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) November 4, 2020
Cawthorn, 25, is viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party and secured a speaking slot at the GOP convention this summer before even winning the general election.
But Cawthorn’s race became unexpectedly competitive after he had to fend off accusations of sexual misconduct and white supremacist beliefs.
The district — which had been a reliably conservative district while Meadows represented it for seven years — also became more in play due to a redrawn map that made it slightly more favorable to Democrats.
Meadows resigned his seat in March to become White House chief of staff. Both Meadows and President Trump endorsed real estate agent and local GOP activist Lynda Bennett in the Republican primary to fill the vacancy.
But Cawthorn ultimately edged out Bennett in a surprise victory, catapulting him from a political novice to party star overnight.
Cawthorn’s June primary win also marked a rare victory over a candidate backed by Trump.
Cawthorn insisted that his win was not a referendum on Trump and attributed it to a “superior ground game, a more compelling message, and really, just being able to keep all politics local” during an interview with “Fox & Friends” at the time.
He also highlighted his personal story of being nearly killed in a car accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
But Cawthorn soon began facing questions about his record as he spent more time in the national spotlight.
Photos on his Instagram page in 2017 showed him visiting a German country home used by Adolf Hitler and Nazi officials known as the “Eagle’s Nest,” which Cawthorn described as an item “on my bucket list for awhile.”
“The vacation house of the Führer. Seeing the Eagles Nest has been on my bucket list for awhile, it did not disappoint. Strange to hear so many laughs and share such a good time with my brother where only 79 years ago a supreme evil shared laughs and good times with his compatriots,” Cawthorn wrote in the caption.
Cawthorn maintained that he wanted to visit the site in the context of when U.S. soldiers celebrated the Allies’ victory after World War II there.
“When I visited the Eagle’s Nest this was the history I had in mind. It was a surreal experience to be remembering their joy in a place where the Nazi regime had plotted unspeakable acts of evil,” Cawthorn wrote in a Facebook post.
But it nevertheless offered an opening for Cawthorn’s Democratic opponent, retired Air Force colonel Moe Davis, who tweeted: “Hitler’s vacation retreat is not on my bucket list.”
The Asheville Citizen-Times and WORLD, a Christian magazine based in Asheville, also reported that several women accused Cawthorn of making unwanted sexual advances. Cawthorn has acknowledged that he made some unsuccessful attempts at kissing dates in high school but denied the characterizations of the encounters as sexual assault.
Cawthorn further came under fire in late October for creating an attack website accusing a journalist of leaving a job in academia “to work for non-white males, like [Sen.] Cory Booker [D-N.J.], who aims to ruin white males running for office.”
The website was later changed to state that the journalist had “become a political operative and is an unapologetic defender of left-wing identity politics.”
Cawthorn said in a statement that “the syntax of our language was unclear and unfairly implied I was criticizing Cory Booker.”
The current youngest member of Congress is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), 31, who took office for the first time in January 2019 at the age of 29.