By Pete Zamplas
Hendersonville – Hendersonville native Madison Cawthorn is putting charisma and enthusiasm behind staunch conservative positions, in his effort to defeat Lynda Bennett June 23 for the Republican nomination for the 11th U.S. Congressional District.
Cawthorn, who runs a real estate investment firm, targets the spread of big government. He is eager to “combat the rise of socialism” — led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco and AOC (Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez) of The Bronx, N.Y. and other “leftist, coastal elites.”
Cawthorn declared on Facebook “our values are under assault, and we have to turn the tide. Help send a fighter to Congress.” On his campaign website, he specifies “I will work tirelessly for smaller, leaner government,” he vowed,” and I will be a strong voice for faith, family and freedom.”
The avid hunter and bodybuilder also targets high taxes and national security. He wants to reach undecided voters for the general election, via social media.
The Cawthorn-Bennett run-off is Tuesday, June 23. Early voting is ongoing through Saturday, June 20, in counties’ main elections offices. Democrat Moe Davis awaits the winner, for the Nov. 3 election.
Bennett got 22.7 percent and Cawthorn 20.4 percent. Those top two advanced.
Both tout themselves as pro-Donald Trump and constitutional conservatives, with similar priority issues. The source of their support seems to vary.
Cawthorn got national TV exposure, on Fox and Friends. But most of his backers are locals, such as former Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin who has run for congress himself. Erwin was sheriff for 28 years, to 2006. Erwin said the Cawthorn campaign will “beat the D.C. insiders trying to influence our proud district.”
Cawthorn counter-attacked claims by the other campaign or its allies. He said Bennett “continues to cower behind big-name endorsements.”
“I love being the underdog, because they don’t see us coming,” Cawthorn told WLOS ABC 13 after learning he would match up against Bennett, who is backed by President Trump and others. “They have brought $1 million. They have brought all the star power. They tried to have a coronation” for Bennett.
Cawthorn said in a recent forum if elected, he will be “beholden only to you people.”
Cawthorn last week challenged Bennett to a debate. “This campaign is an extended job interview with voters. If you don’t show up, you shouldn’t get the job. Voters deserve a direct comparison of our ideas, views and temperament before the June 23 runoff. We owe them that.” An earlier debate in Haywood County Bennet did no show-up o take part in and at least one news media reported that Cawthorn debated an empty chair.
Bennett backers challenge Cawthorn’s readiness, pointing to his youth. He was age 24, as of Super Tuesday. Yet his youth enables him to better serve multiple terms, for continuity and rise in committee assignments.
“Madison Cawthorn is the future” of the GOP locally and in Congress as a conservative, Christian Millennial, Matthew Burril of Asheville said. Burril withdrew from the initial primary and backed Cawthorn. Burril owns BrickStreet Equity Management.
He said Cawthorn can mobilize “young patriotic conservatives and independent voters who are searching for a person who understands their desire for a clear, reasonable voice among all of the distortions of social and mainstream media. He is committed to combatting the socialist virus that is prevalent among young people, by expertly taking on those individuals who tout the twisted liberal message in the new social media community.”
The real estate investor and motivational speaker inspires with his muscular fitness and can-do spirit, since a near-fatal auto crash that partially paralyzed him six years ago. He gets around in a wheelchair.
His campaign’s “Send a Fighter to Congress” motto is followed by this passage: His “spirit, determination, faith and courage have been tested in ways very few will ever face. He’s a proven fighter, overcoming life’s toughest challenges. Now, he’s ready to take on the liberals in Congress.”
Others agree. “He’s an outstanding young man in many respects,” Ron Redmon of Flat Rock wrote on Facebook. “He survived a horrible automobile accident that would have killed anyone else. But he pulled through by sheer force of will. He was on track for a nomination to the Naval Academy by Congress Mark Meadows, but could not go.” Instead, Cawthorn went to college.
Burril anticipates Cawthorn can “navigate the intense pressure of the national spotlight” since he lives a “disciplined lifestyle” and “has been greatly challenged, and is mentally prepared for the demanding task.”
Cawthorn is engaged to marry Cristina Bayardelle. He was homeschooled. In 2013, he starred as a middle linebacker for Asheville Saints in Christian-based Pioneer Football high school games.
His father Roger Cawthorn is a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments, in Hendersonville. The family is in its eighth generation locally and includes a Revolutionary War ancestor.
Cawthorn was in several meet and greets in many counties last week including Buncombe, Franklin, McDowell, and (as Madison in) Madison. A “shoot ‘n greet” was in Old Fort Saturday. He was in Hendersonville’s Fighter Within Mixed Martial Arts on Feb. 27.
Dale Wiggins saw him May 29 in Graham County. On Facebook, he described Cawthorn as “down to earth, and very genuine. He was humble, and eager to hear what folks had to say.”
For more info, check https://www.madisoncawthorn.com.