25-year-old Republican Cawthorn wins U.S. House in N.C.'s 11th Congressional District

25-year-old Republican Cawthorn wins U.S. House in N.C.'s 11th Congressional District
Election results on Tuesday show real estate investment firm CEO Madison Cawthorn defeated Lynda Bennett in the 11th Congressional District runoff. (Source: madisoncawthorn.com)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A 25-year-old Republican won election to U.S. House in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.

Madison Cawthorn defeated Democrat Moe Davis, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Cawthorn defeated President Donald Trump’s choice for the seat recently held by his chief of staff during primaries.

Cawthorn, a CEO of a real estate firm defeated Lynda Bennett in the 11th Congressional District runoff of the primary.

Bennett had received Trump’s endorsement and had the backing of Mark Meadows, who held the seat for more than six years but decided not to run again.

Meadows resigned from Congress in March as he became chief of staff.

Cawthorn is a small businessman and motivational speaker. He was granted a full R.O.T.C. scholarship to North Carolina State University, but his plans were derailed that year after he nearly died in a car crash that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

He spoke during the 2020 Republican National Convention.

In his speech, Cawthorn Madison Cawthorn about young people being the leaders for change in America.

“I just turned 25. When I’m elected this November, I’ll be the youngest member of Congress in over 200 years. If you don’t think young people can change the world, then you don’t know American history. George Washington was 21 when he received his first military commission. Abe Lincoln was 22 when he first ran for office. James Madison was 25 when he signed the Declaration of Independence,” Cawthorn said. “In times of peril, young people saved this country abroad and at home. We held the line, scaled cliffs, crossed oceans, liberated camps and cracked codes.”

Democratic opponent Moe Davis and others posting on social media have questioned photos that Cawthorn posted of his 2017 visit to Adolf Hitler’s mountaintop chalet in southern Germany. He wrote at the time that the trip to Eagle’s Nest, a popular tourist attraction, “has been on my bucket list for years. And it did not disappoint.” A Cawthorn post referred to Hitler both as “the Fuhrer” and “supreme evil.”

U.S. soldiers entered the Eagle’s Nest at the close of World War II to celebrate their victory over Hitler and Nazi Germany. Cawthorn mentioned that such a celebration was portrayed in the television series “Band of Brothers.” Expressing disdain for the Nazis, Cawthorn said they’d have had little use for a man with a disability — he is paralyzed from the abdomen down after a 2014 automobile accident in Florida.

Critics “want to try and twist it to where I am some kind of Nazi sympathizer, when I’m a man in a wheelchair (and) ... these cowards and these bastards would have killed me,” Cawthorn told the AP. He said he won’t take down the posts “because we’re not going to back down to this leftist mob.”

Davis, a retired Air Force officer and former chief prosecutor of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said Wednesday that the Eagle’s Nest photos, combined with Cawthorn’s use of other phrases or images that he contends are associated with white supremacy, are troubling.

Among them: a campaign photo showing Cawthorn with a gun holster emblazoned with a Spartan-style helmet; a photo in which he appears in front of a “Betsy Ross” flag, an early U.S. flag with 13 stars; and the name of his real estate company, SPQR Holdings, with the SPQR being the abbreviation for a Latin phrase that translates to “the Senate and People of Rome.”

“If it was maybe one (incident) you could dismiss it as a coincidence,” Davis said in an AP interview. “When it’s four or five indicators, it tends to paint a pretty clear picture.”

But Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said the Betsy Ross flag, the SPQR abbreviation and Spartan helmet are not included in the league’s database of hate symbols. Pitcavage said while there are examples of their use by white supremacists, or in the case of the helmet by antigovernment or firearms activists, they are used “just as much or more often by nonextremists than extremists.”

Without specifically evaluating Cawthorn, he said: “Based on those specific things, I don’t think someone can make a good case that the person (using them) is an extremist.”

Regarding the name of his real estate company, Cawthorn said he took Latin while home-schooled, and interprets the phrase denoted by SPQR as a call to combat consolidated power. He says it carries no racist intent on his part.

Moe Davis released this statement after his defeat:

“I’m grateful to over 1,000 volunteers who worked tirelessly to help me try to bring better days to Western North Carolina. I’ll be forever grateful for their support. But the voters have spoken and while I’m disappointed, I respect their decision.

"We live in a divided America and a divided Western North Carolina. It is now up to those elected to find a way to heal the divisions, seek common ground and work together to reduce poverty, increase access to healthcare and protect our precious environment.

“There is a lot of work to do. We are here to help.”

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.