Look out, AOC, your record as the youngest person in modern history to be elected to Congress is about to be broken – by a Republican. Madison Cawthorn is a 24-year-old newcomer to politics, yet he handily beat his run-off opponent last night. Cawthorn ran for North Carolina’s 11th District seat formerly held by President Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.
Cawthorn will celebrate his 25th birthday before the November election when he faces off against Democrat Morris Davis, an Air Force veteran who was the chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, so he will be eligible to hold the office. The district is considered a safe Republican district. He finished behind his opponent, Lynda Bennett, in a 12 person primary in March. Bennett is said to have been hand-picked by Meadows for the seat and has a friendship with both Meadows and his wife. Cawthorn has a connection to Meadows – he nominated Cawthorn to attend the United States Naval Academy.
Mr. Cawthorn finished behind Ms. Bennett in a 12-person primary in March, but no candidate won enough votes to avoid a runoff. In the weeks since, he has run as Ms. Bennett’s conservative equal, emphasizing his support for gun rights and his opposition to abortion and “socialized medicine.” He tried to turn Ms. Bennett’s high-profile endorsements against her, arguing she would arrive in Washington already beholden to interests beyond her constituents.
Some Republicans in the district were bitter that Mr. Meadows announced he would not seek re-election just before the December filing deadline and speculated that he had timed the move to give Ms. Bennett an edge in the race.
Mr. Cawthorn has no government experience. He was nominated by Mr. Meadows in 2014 to attend the United States Naval Academy, but a severe car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down and reliant on a wheelchair. He featured the story prominently in his campaign. A photograph on his campaign website showed Mr. Cawthorn dressed in hunting gear while in his wheelchair, with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
Even though he didn’t have the endorsement of Trump and Meadows, Cawthorn wasted no time in striking a note of party unity and voiced his support for the president. As he made his appeal to Trump voters, he reminded them that he’s ready to take on the left in Congress as a member of the new generation of Republicans.
“I want to make something clear: I support our great president,” he said. “I do not believe this election has been a referendum on the president’s influence. The people of western North Carolina are wise and discerning. You observed both candidates and simply made the choice you believed is best for our district.”
Mr. Cawthorn campaigned as the embodiment of a new generation of politicians on the right who are ready to go toe-to-toe with young officials ascending on the progressive left, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“While the far left is lighting our cities on fire, we are lifting the light of liberty,” he said in his statement.
He defeated Lynda Bennett with nearly two-thirds of the vote, which is an impressive victory for any candidate, especially a newcomer. During the campaign, he empathized support for gun rights, his opposition to abortion, and his opposition to socialized medicine. He embraces border security and religious freedom. He dinged Bennett for high profile endorsements, claiming she would be beholden to special interests if she won. Cawthorn earned the endorsements of three retired lawmakers and former 11th district candidates. He has a long list of endorsements from county commissioners and sheriffs around the region.
Both candidates have business experience in real estate. Cawthorn owned a real estate investment company and was a motivational speaker, often telling his own story of surviving the car wreck that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Bennett has a background as a real estate broker.
No offense to Ms. Bennett, who is 62 years old, but it’s good to see young conservatives running for office. It’s time for some fresh faces and enthusiasm for the work. He supports smaller, leaner government, which is a step in the right direction. Those currently in Congress seem to have given up on that these days. Let’s hope he puts his motivational speaking skills into inspiring other lawmakers to get back to some basic Republican principles like fiscal responsibility.