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Rep. Madison Cawthorn loses North Carolina GOP primary after public stumbles

It’s one term and done for controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorn.

The 26-year-old right-wing firebrand was beaten by North Carolina state Sen. Chuck Edwards in Tuesday’s Republican primary contest for the right to represent the solid red 11th Congressional District.

Edwards topped the embattled Cawthorn by a razor-thin margin Tuesday with 33.5% of the vote over Cawthorn’s 31.6% with about 99% of the votes tallied.

Edwards, who called himself a Washington outsider, cleared the 30% threshold needed to avoid a July runoff.

Cawthorn had drawn the ire of his fellow Republicans over several controversial statements — including claims that lawmakers had invited him to orgies and snorted cocaine in front of him.

Cawthorn was viewed as a rising star in the GOP when he won the election in 2020 to replace then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, but a series of public missteps have dogged his first term in office.

In March, Cawthorn called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” in charge of an “incredibly evil” government. The lawmaker was also twice arrested trying to carry a gun on an airplane and has been accused by a former aide of denying her emergency leave after her husband suffered a heart attack.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn was criticized for his controversial comments and multiple arrests.
AP Photo/Chris Seward, File

But what really outraged Cawthorn’s Capitol Hill colleagues was comments he made on a podcast in late March when he likened Congress to the fictional series “House of Cards.”

“The sexual perversion that goes on in Washington, I mean, being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 or 70 — [you] look at all these people, a lot of them that I’ve looked up to through my life … Then all of a sudden you get invited. ‘We’re going to have a sexual get-together at one of our homes, you should come.’

“‘What did you just ask me to come to?’ And then you realize they’re asking you to come to an orgy,” he said, later adding: “You watch them do a bump of cocaine right in front of you, and it’s like, ‘This is wild.’”

That earned Cawthorn a scolding from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who told reporters the North Carolinian had “lost my trust” and would “have to earn it back.”

One Republican who stuck by Cawthorn was former President Donald Trump, who issued a special appeal Tuesday on his Truth Social platform.

“When Madison was first elected to Congress, he did a great job,” the 45th president wrote. “Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again … let’s give Madison a second chance.”

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