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Democracy on the ballot as NC-11 voters choose new congressmember

A graphic showing the Western North Counties in purple that make up the 11th Congressional district.
North Carolina legislature
Voters in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District will elect a new member of Congress for the second straight election.

BPR has covered a number of issues key to the 11th Congressional District race – from abortion to climate change to the economy. As voters head to the polls in early voting, another important topic is democracy. Today, we’ll take a closer look at where the three candidates stand with the January 6th insurrection.

Western North Carolina voters will choose their next member of Congress from a field of three: Republican state Sen. Chuck Edwards, Libertarian small business owner David Coatney and Democratic Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. Here’s Beach-Ferrara.

“This election is about very stark choices. If there's one thing that I could ask voters to think about as they prepare to make their decisions about who to vote for, it's that Western North Carolina deserves someone in Congress who understands that their job is to fulfill their oath of office and to represent every single person in our district,” she said. “And we have not gotten that from Mark Meadows, from Madison Cawthorn.”

As the candidates look back on the events of Jan. 6, all three have very clear opinions on what happened that day.

“Jan. 6 was an insurrection,” Beach-Ferrara said. “it was one of the darkest days in our country's history and we have to ensure that it never happens again. What we have learned through the Jan. 6 committee's work is that the planning of that event and the coordination around it went all the way to the White House, including the involvement of Mark Meadows, a former representative from this district.”

During an Aug. 31 candidate forum hosted by BPR and The Smoky Mountain News, Libertarian David Coatney largely agreed with Beach-Ferrara’s assessment.

“I would call it an insurrection as well,” said Coatney. “And I would also like to point out the difference between a riot and a protest — it is not dependent on your political persuasion. What I saw on Jan. 6 was I saw Trump supporters standing around the sidewalks just waving flags. Those are not rioters, those are protestors. At that exact same time, I also saw individuals breaking windows, busting through doors and storming government facilities. Those are rioters.”

Republican nominee Chuck Edwards wasn’t at that forum, but during a February event, he said he didn’t think Jan. 6 was an insurrection. When he was asked again by BPR on Oct. 14, after 9 televised hearings by the Jan. 6 committee, he remained consistent.

“I've said many times that Jan. 6 was not an insurrection,” said Edwards. “Jan. 6 began as a peaceful protest by hundreds of thousands of people exercising their First Amendment rights, and there were a few folks in the crowd that broke out into a riot.

It’s a little more than a few — to date, almost a thousand people have been charged with varying crimes related to the insurrection, including two Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy.

If Republicans can take control of the House, which is a possibility, Edwards told BPR he’d do away with the Jan. 6 committee and not look back.

“I’m looking in the windshield,” he said. “We've got problems here in America that are affecting working families, particularly here in Western North Carolina. I would propose that it's time for the U.S. House to turn its attention towards the future and make life better for the folks in America.”

Edwards says his three terms in the General Assembly are good reasons why voters should trust him to follow Meadows, who looks to be a central figure in the insurrection, and Cawthorn, who spoke at the infamous “Stop the Steal” Trump rally on Jan. 6.

“I've clearly got a record,” said Edwards. “I've served in the North Carolina Senate for the last six years, and I've done exactly what the voters trusted me to do. I think that's why they're ultimately going to make a decision to trust me with yet another public office.”

Early voting for the Nov. 8 General Election is now underway in North Carolina.

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