Pundits and pollsters, including those at Decision Desk HQ, have called the race for North Carolina’s 11lth Congressional District for state Sen. Chuck Edwards over current Rep. Madison Cawthorn in an unwieldy field with eight candidates.
But is this race still too close to call?
Edwards currently leads Cawthorn by just over 1,500 votes with 94% of the vote counted. In NorthCarolina primary elections, if no candidate wins 30% of the vote, the second-place candidate may request a runoff primary, but that won’t be the case here since both Edwards and Cawthorn reached that 30% threshold. According to Ballotpedia, candidates in N. Carolina may request a recount “if the difference between the votes for the requester and the winning candidate is less than or equal to 10,000 votes or 0.5% of the votes cast, whichever is less,” so we are most likely looking at a recount in this race.
At about 10 p.m. Eastern, Cawthorn told supporters that “the race is very close,” adding that “it’s still to be decided.”
Congressman Madison Cawthorn just came out to address supporters at his election night party in Hendersonville @NBCNews. Race is still too close to call but he’s trailing behind State Senator Chuck Edwards. No matter what, there won’t be a runoff here. pic.twitter.com/r7FyaBxKjS
— Antonia Hylton (@ahylton26) May 18, 2022
Thirty minutes later, reports began to surface that Cawthorn had conceded.
The Associated Press reported that Cawthorn has conceded the race, but, interestingly enough, the AP has still not called the race for Edwards. Edwards’ campaign is also reporting that Cawthron had called him to concede. “I received a call from Congressman Cawthorn just a few minutes ago,” he told supporters. “Just as I expected, he presented himself in a very classy and humble way and offered his support to our campaign in absolutely any way that we can use him.”
Cawthorn was elected to represent North Carolina in 2020, and many had high hopes for the 26-year-old rising Republican star. But since being elected, he’s lurched from one scandal to another, turning off even some of his most loyal supporters. His favorability rating dropped a whopping 13 points between March and Election Day after he claimed that the D.C. political class is rife with cocaine use and orgies, and after photographs were leaked of him dressed in women’s lingerie and nude in bed with a man.
Cawthrorn’s fundraising dwarfed that of his opponents. Financial disclosures show that he had raised $3.6 million as of April 27. Bruce O’Connell, who only got 6.8% of the vote, raised $1.1 million; Edwards only brought in $803,000.
Cawthorn’s campaign was banking on Donald Trump’s endorsement—which didn’t come until March 31—dragging him across the finish line, but were his negatives too much for even Trump’s support to overcome?
Edwards, on the other hand, was endorsed by popular sitting Sen. Thom Tillis. “The 11th Congressional District deserves a congressman who is fully dedicated to serving their constituents,” said Tillis in his endorsement. “Unfortunately, Madison Cawthorn has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives, and voters now have several well-qualified candidates to choose from who would be a significant improvement.”
Tillis declared victory for Edwards on Tuesday night:
— Thom Tillis (@ThomTillis) May 18, 2022
Cawthorn had accused outside groups of trying to take him down, saying, “the radical left, the establishment, and the media want to take me down… I won’t stop fighting. I won’t bow to the mob. They want to silence the America First movement. I’m not going anywhere.”
He also accused RINOs of trying to defeat him:
RINOS are tripping over themselves to defeat me.
They will lose.
We will win. pic.twitter.com/C2Zeg1vBWn
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) April 29, 2022
His complaint has some merit.
“Our early March survey showed Cawthorn well-positioned for re-election. But a lot has changed in the past six weeks,” consultant Jim Blaine advised in a memo to GOPAC Chairman David Avella. “Negative stories about his personal behavior have seriously undermined Cawthorn’s standing with GOP primary voters in all the most important image and job performance measures.”
Earlier on Tuesday Cawthorn declared that his campaign would send a message to the GOP establishment:
Western North Carolina, today is the day.
Today’s the day we send a message to the Establishment and the Swamp: you have no power over the people.
America first will win.
I ask for your vote today. Polls are open now!
I’ve only just begun to fight for you.
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) May 17, 2022
Is it possible that pundits have jumped the gun in calling this race? It wouldn’t be the first time, but reports that Cawthorn has conceded indicate that believes that he has lost. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time that a candidate retracted his concession.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned to PJ Media for further updates.
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