Cawthorn concedes race, ending re-election bid marred by ‘orgy’ claim

Far-right Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina lost in the primary election on Tuesday, ending his re-election bid after an ugly (yet entertaining) race characterized by Republican infighting

North Carolina state Sen. Chuck Edwards won the election by a narrow margin, NBC News projected. Cawthorn called Edwards to concede the race, Cawthorn’s campaign spokesman told reporters.

Democrats largely stood back and watched with glee as national and state-level Republican leadership tried to torpedo Cawthorn’s campaign in recent months. The white-hot disdain for Cawthorn seemed to reach its peak in March after he gave an interview in which he said people he respected in Washington (who I assume are Republicans) snorted cocaine in front of him and invited him to orgies. 

From there, the attacks on Cawthorn escalated. In late March, Sen. Thom Tillis endorsed one of Cawthorn’s primary opponents, saying Cawthorn had “fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives.” Tillis went on to call for an investigation into Cawthorn for alleged insider trading. (Cawthorn has denied the allegation.)

But, believe it or not, things only seemed to get worse for Cawthorn after that. Beginning in mid-April, a series of salacious photos and videos started popping up online: one featuring him wearing lingerie, another showing a man touching Cawthorn’s crotch over his pants, and another showing Cawthorn thrusting his naked body on top of another man.

Cawthorn, for his part, has dismissed the content as him just having fun and being silly. He attributed the leaks to the Republican “establishment” and “RINO” (Republican in name only) senators, who he said were trying to sabotage his re-election bid. And the sabotage seems to have worked. 

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Cawthorn’s re-election campaign last year and doubled down on his support this week.

“When Madison was first elected to Congress, he did a great job,” Trump wrote in a social media post. “Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again…let’s give Madison a second chance!”

But North Carolina voters bucked Trump’s request.

Even if Cawthorn had won, his general election victory in the state’s 11th congressional district wouldn’t have been preordained. The district has been redrawn and is no longer as heavily Republican as it was when Cawthorn first ran in 2020, although it still has a slight Republican lean.

Now, ousted from his office, it’s unclear whether Cawthorn will wage a vendetta against GOP lawmakers who set out to sink his re-election bid. Sure, he’s been separated from the power electoral politics afforded him. But he might still hold sway among the band of extremists that have followed him and other right-wing politicians like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

If that’s the case, Cawthorn could still have the power to influence GOP politics and make some Republicans very miserable. 

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March 31, 202209:57

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