As the Daily Beast so eloquently put it, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) has been sent “home to think about what he did.” Cawthorn was shockingly (though, in light of recent events, not-so-shockingly) ousted Tuesday night in his primary for North Carolina’s deep red 11th Congressional district. So, who is the swashbuckling, charismatic upset who knocked our 26-year-old fascist Ken doll out of Congress?
None other than a very run-of-the-mill, normal Republican legislator named Chuck Edwards, who espouses the same ideology.
By “normal Republican,” of course, I mean about as batshit as you’d expect from the party of Rep. Marjorie Taylor “Marshall Law” Greene (R-Ga.) and Sen. Ted “Mickey Mouse and Pluto are fucking” Cruz (R-Texas). Edwards isn’t exactly accusing beloved cartoon characters of shagging or aiding and abetting an armed insurrection, but he’s made clear he believes pretty much all the same things that all the other batshit Republicans do with regard to dehumanizing immigrants, pregnant people, LGBTQ people, and people of color. And given how, unlike Cawthorn, Edwards’s endorsements show he’ll have real standing and credibility in his caucus, he’s arguably even more dangerous than his predecessor: He might actually be able to get shit done.
Shortly after Edwards was declared the winner and Cawthorn conceded, Edwards told the Raleigh News and Observer his primary goals were “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.” What a normal thing to say!
Prior to his Tuesday victory, Edwards, who “considers himself a small businessman,” has worked as a senior business consultant at McDonald’s, owner of several McDonald’s franchises, and the director of Entegra Financial Corporation, before being appointed to North Carolina’s state Senate in 2016. Now in his third term in the Senate, Edwards serves on a whopping 17 committees, including serving as chairman of the committees on agriculture, energy and environment; appropriations on agriculture, natural and economic resources; and commerce and insurance.
Notably, the trajectories of Cawthorn’s and Edwards’s political careers are night and day: Cawthorn got his start by running against the North Carolina establishment, defeating a Trump-backed candidate in his 2020 primary run-off for former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadow’s vacant seat; meanwhile, as the Washington Post notes, Edwards is quite liked by North Carolina Republicans—all the more so since Cawthorn’s scandals started piling up around March (which, incidentally, is around when Edwards’s campaign started picking up steam).
Cawthorn and Edwards were initially running in different districts, with Cawthorn announcing amid redistricting that he would run instead in another district closer to Charlotte. But then, in February, Cawthorn filed to run in his incumbent 11th Congressional district, where Edwards was already a candidate. Edwards’s campaign initially seemed like a long shot that drew little attention and even less in fundraising—until the coke-and-orgies story heard ‘round the world.
Shortly after Cawthorn drew the ire of his party, and particularly House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for claiming Republican colleagues had done drugs in front of and invited him to orgies, the headlines started pouring in: insider trading, a confiscated driver’s license, a second time bringing a loaded gun through airport security, unethical payments to staff, and, most insulting to Cawthorn’s homophobic, transphobic base, photos of him in women’s lingerie, and videos of him being groped by one man, and thrusting his genitals in the face of another.
Despite how Cawthorn held onto Trump’s endorsement, he was subsequently called an “embarrassment” to his state by fellow Republican Sen. Richard Burr, while Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) endorsed and began fundraising extensively for Edwards. Even then, as Cawthorn’s poll numbers started to tank, he maintained a sizable lead over Edwards, at about 38 to 21% per an April poll—but tellingly, this poll came out before some of the more, err, lewd stories about Cawthorn dropped in late April and earlier this month. Cawthorn’s narrow defeat by fewer than two percentage points suggests the sexual videos of him with other men may have been what did him in in his ultra-conservative district.
So, there you have it! I, for one, do not feel sorry for Madison, who is a noted alleged serial sexual predator and undoubtedly has a very bright future recording birthday messages on Cameo or perhaps serving hot takes on Newsmax. But I’m also not particularly relieved to see him go, considering his replacement. They’re all the fucking same.