Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) conceded losing the 11th Congressional District primary Tuesday after a series of scandals since his election in 2020, bringing his congressional career to an end after a single term. In an upset victory, state Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated Cawthorn to win the Republican nomination in the district.
Cawthorn called Edwards to concede late Tuesday, Cawthorn campaign spokesman Luke Ball told the Associated Press. Cawthorn also congratulated Edwards in a tweet.
Polling in the Republican primary race was sparse, so it was unclear prior to the primary election how voters would react to a slew of recent scandals and unforced errors by Cawthorn, 26. Former President Donald Trump, with whom Cawthorn has closely aligned himself, acknowledged the North Carolina Republican’s “mistakes” in asking voters to give the congressman another chance.
“When Madison was first elected to Congress, he did a great job,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform. “Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again … let’s give Madison a second chance!”
After originally seeking to switch districts amid the state’s redistricting process, Cawthorn ultimately returned to the 11th District, where he faced seven Republican challengers seeking to deny him a second term, including Edwards. Sen. Thom Tillis, who will become the state’s senior senator after the retirement of Sen. Richard Burr, endorsed Edwards, blasting Cawthorn as unfit for the role as scandals piled up.
Some of Cawthorn’s recent controversies include suggesting those who object to the 2020 election results “lightly threaten” members of Congress and labeling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” amid Russia’s invasion of the country. He also claimed Washington lawmakers invited him to a cocaine-fueled orgy before walking back the comments after a meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Cawthorn also generated negative headlines about himself after driving with a revoked license and attempting to bring a loaded gun into an airport multiple times. As the scandals, many of which happened just weeks before the primary, piled up, lewd images and videos of Cawthorn, an ethics complaint about staff pay, and allegations over insider trading also emerged.
The 11th District is considered a safe Republican seat, making Edwards’s election to Congress in the fall likely.
One of Cawthorn’s fiercest Republican foes in Congress came from the Senate, with Tillis throwing his support behind Edwards in his primary challenge to Cawthorn and making his joy known Tuesday night when the race was called.