State Sen. Chuck Edwards is drawing national attention after narrowly defeating Madison Cawthorn, the embattled first-term congressman from Western North Carolina who earned powerful opposition within his own party, in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Edwards maintained a lead over Cawthorn throughout Tuesday night, and even though the gap between the two started to narrow, Cawthorn called his opponent after leaving his Election Night watch party in Hendersonville and conceded the race. At his own party in Flat Rock, about 15 minutes away, Edwards thanked voters for backing him to represent them in Congress.
“I’m so happy for the folks here in North Carolina’s 11th district,” Edwards told reporters. “The energy that they showed, the enthusiasm to have a greater voice in their government — we’ve all got a lot to be proud of tonight.”
Edwards will now face Democratic nominee Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a county commissioner in liberal-leaning Buncombe County, in the November general election.
Political observers consider the 11th Congressional District, which includes Buncombe and the city of Asheville but also other, more conservative counties in the westernmost part of the state, to be solidly Republican. That means that Edwards will likely face an easy contest against Beach-Ferrara in the fall.
When asked what comes next for him, Edwards said his “first focus” was to run against and defeat Beach-Ferrara.
After that, he said, his priorities would be “removing the gavel out of Nancy Pelosi’s hand, and then taking the teleprompter from Joe Biden and restoring the policies that we enjoyed under the Trump administration, to help get this country back on track.”
Who is Chuck Edwards?
Edwards is currently serving his third full term in the North Carolina Senate. He was appointed to the 48th Senate District in August 2016 after the resignation of former Sen. Tom Apodaca and won reelection in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
In the state Senate, Edwards serves as chairman of the committees on agriculture, energy and environment; appropriations on agriculture, natural and economic resources; and commerce and insurance.
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.