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#NC11 Runoff: Cawthorn Trounces Bennett To Take GOP Nomination

Cory Vaillancourt
Madison Cawthorn waits to address supporters after his GOP runoff victory June 23.

Madison Cawthorn, who would be the youngest member of Congress should he be elected this fall, trounced fellow Republican Lynda Bennett in Tuesday's runoff election to win the GOP nomination for North Carolina's 11th Congressional district.  He'll face Democrat Moe Davis in the November general election.

The real estate investor and motivational speaker from Henderson County defeated Bennett by a 2-1 margin in the runoff, grabbing 66% of the vote.  Cawthorn, who would turn 25 (the minimum age a member of the House of Representatives must be) by the time he'd be sworn-in, finished second to Bennett in the March 3rd primary.  Neither reached the 30% threshold in the 12-candidate field needed to avoid the runoff, which was originally scheduled to take place May 12th but was delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic.  

“Tonight, the voters of the 11th district of North Carolina said they’re ready for a new generation of leadership in Washington," Cawthorn said after his victory Tuesday night in Hendersonville.  "You turned our message of hope, opportunity and freedom into a movement. While the far left is lighting our cities on fire, we are lifting the light of liberty. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden may not be able to control where the Democrats are going but, together, we can."

Despite receiving an endorsement from President Donald Trump via tweet, as well as the president's chief of staff Mark Meadows, Bennett faltered in the runoff.  The launch of her campaign in December, just two hours after Meadows announced his retirement the day before the candidate filing period ended, rankled many local Republican officials who questioned whether she had been tipped off by the 4-term Congressman.  Then in February, a flyer distributed to voters ahead of the first primary listing Bennett as the 'official conservative' candidate was found to have been created by a two-day old PAC with significant financial ties to her campaign.  

Davis received 48% of the vote in the Democratic primary, easily enough to avoid a runoff.  Despite redrawn 11th district lines for 2020 that now include all of the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, Republicans are still favored to keep the seat.  The 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina make up the 11th.

A special election is likely to take place on the same day as the general election November 3rd to fill out the remainder of Meadows' term.  He resigned the 11th district seat in March to become President Trump's chief of staff.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.