Western North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn has made it official - he will not run for reelection in his current district, but will rather run in the newest Congressional district drawn in North Carolina.
Critical announcement: we are taking ground for conservatism.
You elected a fighter. Trust me to fight for you. pic.twitter.com/861Um0yizc
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) November 12, 2021
The freshman GOP lawmaker announced his decision in a social media post Thursday night. "I have every confidence in the world that wherever I run, the 14th Congressional district will send a patriotic fighter to DC," said Cawthorn in the video. "But, knowing the political realities of the 13th district, I'm afraid that another establish 'go-along to get-along' Republican will prevail there. I will not let that happen. I will be running for Congress in the 13th Congressional district."
Cawthorn is in his first term representing North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, which encompasses the westernmost part of the state. The 11th will be renumbered for next year’s election as the 14th under new maps approved by North Carolina's General Assembly. Several candidates from both parties already declared they’d be running for the seat even before Cawthorn’s decision.
The 13th district for next year will include Polk, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties, all of which are currently in the 11th. It will extend east all the way to Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte suburbs. Cawthorn lives in Henderson County which will remain in what will become the 14th, but he can run in the 13th as it is not a requirement for members of the House of Representatives to live in the districts they represent.
Cawthorn’s switch put him in line to potentially face North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore in the Republican primary in the 13th. But Thursday night, Moore made it official that he will instead stay in the legislature and seek another term as House Speaker according to the News & Observer.
Cawthorn's decision will send shock waves through state politics, and in particular Republican circles. Western Carolina University political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper called Cawthorn's decision 'unprecedented as you can get in an unprecedented time.'
"I've looked through every book on my book shelf and I couldn't find a sitting member of Congress deciding to run in a different district when the district they were already representing was clearly in their favor," Dr. Cooper told BPR in an interview Friday morning. Cawthorn won the 2020 election by a 55-42% margin over Democrat Moe Davis. Even with the changes in the new map for what will be the 14th - the removal of three Republican-leaning counties and the addition of Watauga County and the campus of Appalachian State University - the district is still seen as favorable to Republicans by most political analysts. The Cook Political Report ranks the 14th as an R+7 district, giving the GOP a 52-45% edge over Democrats. The 13th district is ranked R+13.
A victory for the seemingly safer seat would give Cawthorn a major victory over establishment Republicans in North Carolina according to Cooper. He says the growing schism between establishment GOP - with figures like Moore and state senate leader Phil Berger - and the part more closely allied with former president Donald Trump isn't based on ideology. "There is a Madison Cawthorn (and Lieutenant Governor) Mark Robinson wing of the Republican Party in the state of North Carolina that is tolerated publicly but criticized pretty heavily privately," Cooper says. "I think it is way too early to know how it is going to shake out."