North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, whose various scandals, embarrassing videos, unhinged rhetoric, and run-ins with the law made him one of the most notorious Republicans in Congress during his short time in office, has lost his bid for a second term. State Sen. Chuck Edwards, who pitched himself as a dependable arch-conservative alternative to the shameless, attention-seeking incumbent, defeated Cawthorn in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th District by a 34-32 margin.
Cawthorn’s tireless ability to humiliate his own party crescendoed in late March when he claimed on a podcast that an unidentified colleague had invited him to an "orgy" and that he'd witnessed prominent conservatives doing "a key bump of cocaine." That earned him a scolding from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but Cawthorn’s real undoing may have been the widespread perception back home that he cared more about burnishing his own reputation on the national scene than about working for his district.
That pattern of behavior prompted a number of prominent Republicans to back Edwards, including Sen. Thom Tillis, who emphasized Cawthorn’s lack of concern for his constituents. "It comes down to focus on the district, producing results for the district, and in my opinion, Mr. Cawthorn hasn't demonstrated much in the way of results over the last 18 months." Cawthorn’s November announcement that he’d leave behind his western North Carolina district to run for a different seat in the Charlotte area—a plan that was derailed when the state courts replaced the GOP’s new gerrymander with a fairer map—sent an unmistakable signal that he cared far more about enhancing his profile than about the voters who’d sent him to D.C. in the first place.
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Edwards will now face Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a pastor and member of the Buncombe County commission, in the November general election for a district that Donald Trump would have carried 55-44. Speaking of Trump, the young congressman’s loss represents the second time he bet wrong: He endorsed Cawthorn’s opponent in the 2020 primary but backed Cawthorn on this occasion—and stuck with him until the bitter end. Better luck next time.