Trump-backed Rep. Madison Cawthorn concedes North Carolina GOP primary


Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks before a rally for former U.S. President Donald Trump at The Farm at 95 on April 9, 2022 in Selma, North Carolina.

Allison Joyce | Getty Images

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the scandal-prone freshman lawmaker backed by former President Donald Trump, conceded defeat in his Republican primary election, Cawthorn’s spokesman told reporters Tuesday night.

Cawthorn called State Sen. Chuck Edwards to concede the race, the spokesman said, according to NBC News. Edwards had been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

NBC has yet to project a winner in Cawthorn’s congressional district.

North Carolina voters on Tuesday had already decided who will compete in one of this year’s critical U.S. Senate races: Rep. Ted Budd will win the Republican Senate primary in the race to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr, NBC projected.

Budd is backed both by Trump and the influential conservative group Club for Growth. He will face off in the general election against Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who NBC projected would handily clinch the Democratic nomination.

The swing-state contest is one of a handful that will determine whether Democrats keep their majority in the Senate split 50-50 by party.

Cawthorn is one of 13 U.S. House members from North Carolina. Now 26 years old, Cawthorn was the youngest member of Congress when he was elected in 2020. His seat, which was previously held by ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, is a safe Republican district.

Nevertheless, the first-term lawmaker’s reelection bid became one of the state’s most-watched primary races, thanks to a wide range of scandals and missteps that spurred harsh criticism — even from some Republicans.

The controversies swirling around Cawthorn include: making claims about other lawmakers doing illicit drugs and inviting him to orgies; driving with a revoked license; bringing a loaded handgun to an airport; being eyed by ethics watchdogs over suspicions about possible insider trading related to a meme cryptocurrency; calling Ukraine’s president a “thug” amid an invasion by Russia; and others.

Tillis came out swinging against Cawthorn. He endorsed Edwards, a top rival in the GOP primary. A political action committee affiliated with Tillis reportedly spent more than $300,000 on ads attacking Cawthorn. And after the watchdogs raised concerns of possible insider trading, Tillis openly called for a congressional ethics investigation into Cawthorn.

Trump, meanwhile, defended Cawthorn in a social media post over the weekend.

“Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again,” Trump said of Cawthorn, adding, “Let’s give Madison a second chance!”

Asked by NBC News about Trump’s post, Tillis replied, “Technically, this is the sixth or seventh chance.”

“He hasn’t learned from a mistake he’s made over the last year,” the senator said of Cawthorn.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.


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