Is Madison Cawthorn getting hung out to dry?

Published February 10, 2022

By Thomas Mills

As far as I can tell, Madison Cawthorn has no redeeming qualities. He’s a grifter who will say anything for attention. He’s an anti-intellectual who appeals to the basest instincts of ignorant people. He’s been credibly accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. He lies about his background. He’s sided with the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol on January 6. In some circles, he’s a rising star in the GOP, but apparently not so much in North Carolina.

Cawthorn’s candidacy is being challenged by a group of voters that claims his support for the insurrection makes him ineligible to serve in Congress. They say, according to an NPR article, he “violated U.S. Constitution. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War to prevent Confederates from holding public office, states that no one can hold office if they had taken an oath to support the Constitution and then ‘engaged in insurrection.’” In other words, Cawthorn is not loyal to the United States and, therefore, unfit to be a Member of Congress. Makes sense to me. 

Cawthorn is suing to have the complaint dismissed. He claims that the State Board of Elections does not have the right to declare him ineligible as a candidate. His lawyer also suggested that he would invoke the Amnesty Act of 1872 which returned full citizenship to most former Confederates and allowed them to hold public office. However, as Duke professor Mac McCorkle noted, invoking the Amnesty Act “would seem to admit that he was involved in an insurrection” 

 This week, the State Board of Elections weighed in, declaring they have the right to examine Cawthorn’s candidacy and possibly reject it. If they proceed with the inquiry, Cawthorn might have to testify under oath about his role in the attack on the Capitol. That testimony could then be used by the Congressional Committee investigating the events of January 6. 

Cawthorn may find himself in serious hot water. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the attack on the Capitol an “insurrection.” That contradicts Cawthorn’s depiction of the events of January 6. In addition, Republican leaders in North Carolina and Washington are suspiciously quiet about the challenge to Cawthorn’s candidacy. No prominent North Carolina Republicans are coming to his defense.

 When Republicans first drew the Congressional Districts, House Speaker Tim Moore was expected to run for a seat that included his home of Cleveland County. Cawthorn, though, switched districts and announce he would be running in that district instead of the newly drawn 14th CD which includes his home in Henderson County. Moore announced he wouldn’t run, ostensibly because Republican primary voters would have supported Cawthorn.

Now, Moore may have his revenge. None of the state’s leading Republicans are contesting or complaining about the lawsuit. In addition, Moore could make Cawthorn’s life even more difficult if the legislature re-draws the districts that were struck down last week. Cawthorn could find himself looking for another district.

Cawthorn is difficult person for intelligent people to like, regardless of political persuasion. His naked ambition runs over precedent and seniority. He lies like Donald Trump. He wears his ignorance like a badge of honor. And he will say whatever he believes gets him the most applause. Now, he may find himself in a lonely fight to defend his candidacy.