Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) gambled on a newly drawn, more conservative district -- but his gambit flopped and now he could lose his seat in Congress.
The first-term Republican congressman announced in November that he was leaving North Carolina's 11th District to run in an even more conservative district near Charlotte newly drawn up by legislators, and he urged local GOP chair Michele Woodhouse to run for his old seat, but a state court undid the new congressional map and forced Cawthorn to move back to the district he had spurned, reported The Daily Beast.
“When he decided to come back in, my phone blew up with calls — from within the district, across North Carolina, elected officials from D.C. — saying, ‘You have to stay in the race,’” Woodhouse said.
Cawthorn faces nearly a half-dozen viable challengers, including respected state Sen. Chuck Edwards, and voters feel betrayed -- all of which puts the controversial congressman "at risk," according to a local political expert.
“The feeling is that this is going to be an interesting primary," said Chris Cooper, a professor of political science at Western North Carolina University.
Cawthorn frequently makes national headlines -- and draws the occasional rebuke from GOP leadership -- by calling Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy a "thug," claiming he transported "multiple weapons" to the Jan. 6 insurrection, repeatedly driving on a suspended license and calling House speaker Nancy Pelosi an alcoholic -- and that's just this month.
“The sparkle and buzz around him here, locally, that penny is no longer shiny,” Woodhouse said. “It might shine for him in other places, it doesn't shine for him here.”
Cawthorn's antics, and his failed bid to change districts, has left voters with the feeling that he's more interested in his perch in Congress than representing the constituents who sent him there, and congressional Republicans have already run out of patience with the freshman lawmaker.
“Nobody wants his help,” said a senior GOP aide. “Nobody wants to help him.”
Voters don't seem to mind the controversies, although his challengers are quick to point them out, but they may not forgive his attempt to abandon them, and they may notice he's gotten little work done on their behalf.
“He wants to be able to have all the glory, without the work, without the sacrifice,” Woodhouse said. “Some people will excuse it as youth, but at 26 years old … at a certain point, you're not young anymore. It’s really about depth.”