- Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s controversies are prompting mixed responses from voters in his district.
- Some voters in Asheville, North Carolina, say Cawthorn is “crazy” and wont support his reelection bid.
- Other voters in his hometown say he is still doing a great job.
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina — Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn is in trouble.
He’s twice brought guns to airport checkpoints, allegedly drove without a valid license, made dubious claims of cocaine-fueled orgies, called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug,” is facing a congressional financial investigation, and, most recently, appeared in a leaked video depicting the conservative lawmaker naked in bed while simulating sex with another man.
These and other recent controversies — yes, there are more — have made Cawthorn a target within his own party ahead of a May 17 primary that could determine his future in Congress, if he has one. And some voters preparing to cast their ballots in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, which covers much of the state’s western region, have decidedly mixed feelings about Cawthorn’s run for reelection.
“He’s dangerous,” said Philip, a longtime resident of Cawthorn’s hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina, who declined to give his last name. “He has got to get out of here … He has lost a lot of respect in this community.”
Joy, an Asheville resident of 17 years who also declined to give her last name, told Insider that she thinks he is “crazy.”
“I don’t agree with any of the ideas he has,” she said. “I think he is a wacko and they should take him off of anything that he is on.”
But other Hendersonville residents struck a different tone when asked whether they will support his reelection bid ahead of the primary elections.
“He’s young, and sometimes he may speak when you probably shouldn’t, but I’m all for him,” said a longtime Hendersonville business owner, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution.
Cawthorn’s brazen rhetoric has made him a rising star within the Republican Party.
“Be a radical for freedom. Be a radical for liberty,” Cawthorn said during a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
But his words have also driven some of his former supporters away. The youngest member of Congress, Cawthorn has faced significant opposition not just from Democrats, but from Republicans, too.
sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina called for an investigation into Cawthorn after government watchdog groups accused Cawthorn of violating the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act because of actions related to his financial stake in a cryptocurrency called “Let’s Go Brandon,” the anti-Joe Biden slogan popularized by former President Donald Trump and other top Republicans.
Separately, The Daily Beast on Thursday reported that Cawthorn may have also violated congressional ethics rules involving payments to his chief of staff.
“He screwed himself,” Sharon, a Hendersonville resident of nearly five years who declined to provide her last name, told Insider.
“Once he got elected, he started to do stupid things,” Sharon said. “I won’t vote for him.”
On top of that, Cawthorn faces a congressional ethics complaint, filed last week David Wheeler, the president of American Muckrakers PAC, a political action committee that is trying to unseat him.
The complaint accuses Cawthorn of failing to properly disclose the money loans and gifts he allegedly provided to a male staffer. The complaint also said that the North Carolina lawmaker violated the House ethics rules by allegedly giving free housing to this same staffer.
Some of his supporters say these allegations are politically motivated because of the upcoming midterm election.
“It’s all nonsense,” David Gorasan, a Hendersonville resident, told Insider. “I with him one time, he’s a great guy, and I like his way of thinking … He’s very upfront and cool and overall a very nice person.”
Cawthorn, a Trump acolyte, has spoken out against these allegations stating that it is a coordinated effort by “the North Carolina establishment” against him.
“I’m NOT backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won’t win. We will,” Cawthorn tweeted Wednesday.
“Don’t let the swamp of Washington dissuade or distract you from sending a warrior back to Washington. I’ve only just begun to fight for you,” Cawthorn wrote in a separate tweet the same day.
Cawthorn is facing several Republican primary challengers ahead of the May 17 primary election.
His main opponent is North Carolina state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who endorses Tillis. Cawthorn must receive more than 30 percent of the primary vote to avoid a runoff in July, where he would face the other candidate who finished first or second in May’s vote.