Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old Trump-loving conservative, is projected to win the North Carolina House seat once held by Mark Meadows, now White House chief of staff.
Cawthorn beat out Democrat Moe Davis, a 62-year-old retired Air Force colonel and former military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, by more than 10 percentage points. He is set to become the youngest member of Congress.
His response to victory: tweeting “Cry more, lib.”
Cawthorn’s campaign issued a statement calling out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive firebrand from New York City who at 31 is currently the youngest member of Congress. He had previously said that Ocasio-Cortez’s rise inspired him to run.
“The days of AOC and the far left misleading the next generation of Americans are numbered,” Cawthorn said in a statement about his win. “Tonight, the voters of Western North Carolina chose to stand for freedom and a new generation of leadership in Washington.”
Tucked in the Appalachian Mountains in the westernmost part of the state, the 11th Congressional District has been a dependable conservative stronghold. After all, Meadows, who shot up through the tea party movement and came to chair the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, represented that district.
So Cawthorn was always favored to win, although Democrats did have more hope there than in past election cycles due to court-ordered redistricting that put the city of Asheville, a Democratic stronghold, back within district lines.
Cawthorn, who became paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident in 2014, has been a controversial candidate. During the campaign, he was accused of sexual misconduct, an allegation he said was politically motivated. He acknowledging the encounter but said he was acting “just in a flirtatious way.”
In old, now-deleted posts on Instagram, Cawthorn also referred to Adolf Hitler with the honorific “Fuhrer” and described his visit to Hitler’s vacation home as a trip on his own “bucket list.” After removing those posts, he responded to the scandal on Twitter.
“When our soldiers were photographed at the Eagle’s Nest in 1945 they were clearly celebrating the Allies triumph over one of the greatest evils in human history,” Cawthorn tweeted. “They weren’t celebrating evil; they were celebrating their victory over evil.”
“I don’t cower to the mob,” he continued. “The new Republican Party that I represent will fight back against liberal lies.”
More recently, his campaign created an attack website that went after a local reporter for working for “non-white males, like [Sen.] Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.” Cawthorn said that the line was a “syntax error” and that he merely meant to deride “left-wing identity politics.”
Booker responded to the comment in an interview with HuffPost’s Igor Bobic, calling Cawthorn “clearly racist.”
“It just really personally saddens me that somebody who is so clearly racist is a nominee of a major party, and I think it’s a disrespect of the entire community,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “It’s really unfortunate.”
Cawthorn wasn’t the GOP leadership’s pick to replace Meadows in Congress. But in the June primary, he beat out the Republican Party’s — and Trump’s — pick for the seat in a surprising upset.
He’s still an ardent supporter of Trump and has since been called a rising star in the party. He is anti-abortion and pro-border walls. His campaign platform is less clear on his actual policy positions; his website focuses more on disagreeing with Democrats on issues like the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All” than laying out a plan forward on health care, COVID-19 response or Social Security.