Edwards initially announced his congressional run last November, at which point he and Cawthorn were planning to run in different districts. Cawthorn had decided at the time to leave the district where he won his first term in 2020 for another district closer to Charlotte.
Later, when court-ordered redrawn congressional districts went into effect and candidate filing resumed, Cawthorn moved his reelection bid back to the 11th district, where he suddenly faced seven challengers, including Edwards.
Gaining support of top NC Republicans
At first, prominent Republicans in the state legislature and Congress refrained from making endorsements in the 11th district race as Cawthorn navigated a series of scandals, some of them self-inflicted and others the results of leaks to the media.
A turning point came in late March, when Cawthorn suggested in a podcast interview that he had been invited by fellow members of Congress to partake in orgies and do “key bumps” of cocaine.
The comments drew the ire of top GOP leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who summoned Cawthorn into his office and told the freshman congressman he had lost McCarthy’s trust and would need to earn it back. Cawthorn also admitted to exaggerating at least some of the salacious claims, McCarthy claimed.
That week, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis announced that he was endorsing Edwards in the 11th District GOP primary. In his endorsement, Tillis implicitly criticized Cawthorn for embarrassing Western North Carolinians “with a consistent pattern of juvenile behavior, outlandish statements, and untruthfulness.”
High-profile endorsements for Edwards continued to roll in, with Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, the top two Republicans in the GOP-controlled state legislature, holding a fundraiser for Cawthorn’s opponent.©2022 The Charlotte Observer. Visit at charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.