BURNSVILLE, North Carolina — Supporters of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) are scoffing at myriad controversies threatening to derail the embattled Republican’s political career, offering the first-term lawmaker a ray of hope in Tuesday’s crucial 11th Congressional District primary.

For most of this year, headlines have been dominated by Cawthorn’s run-ins with law enforcement for traffic violations and an attempt to bring a firearm onto an airplane. The 26-year-old has been the subject of insider trading allegations and has faced uncomfortable questions about the management of his congressional office and his campaign’s finances. But voters backing Cawthorn in this conservative, western North Carolina seat are unphased, dismissing the reports as either politically motivated or untrue.

Indeed, one elderly Republican voter who cast an early ballot for Cawthorn in Burnsville, a picturesque mountain community 30 miles northeast of Asheville, used a more expressive colloquialism to explain his continued support for the congressman. “I kind of thought it was a bunch of bulls***,” the man said when asked why he is sticking with Cawthorn despite the string of negative news reports.

This voter, like most in the 11th District interviewed by the Washington Examiner, declined to provide his name for publication.


A spokesman for Cawthorn did not respond to a request for comment. But in public statements, the congressman has generally waved off the political press corps’ focus on his ethical missteps as manipulated or fabricated. Not every Cawthorn supporter necessarily buys that explanation in its entirety. They are backing the Republican nonetheless because they believe a relentless focus on the congressman by a media they view as hostile is proof that he is representing their interests.

The pressure Cawthorn is under reminds at least some Republican voters who are sticking with him of fire constantly directed toward another political figure they admire, former President Donald Trump. “All the right people hate him — just like Trump,” said an elderly Republican voter outside of an early voting site in Waynesville, 64 miles southwest of Burnsville.

“I don’t like the slur campaign that’s come out against him,” added a second elderly Republican female voter who pulled the lever early for Cawthorn in Waynesville. “They’re after him.”

Polling in the contest is scarce, and some Republican insiders in North Carolina are betting Cawthorn wins renomination on the strength of his fervent grassroots support and affiliation with Trump. But there is a sense among some conservative activists in the district that Cawthorn might have worn out his welcome, especially with credible alternatives to choose from, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards and Michele Woodhouse.

Edwards is backed by much of the Republican establishment in North Carolina that has been working quietly behind the scenes to oust him in the primary. Woodhouse, former chairman of the Republican Party in the 11th District and a onetime Cawthorn ally, is running specifically as an “America first,” pro-Trump conservative counterweight to the congressman.


If either Edwards or Woodhouse finishes behind Cawthorn but holds the congressman below 30% of the vote, they would force him into a July 5 runoff, typically a bad sign for incumbents.