Controversies sink reelection bid of GOP Rep. Cawthorn

Published 11:55 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

By Brian Slodysko
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s unexpected 2020 win made him the youngest member of Congress and a rising Republican star. Then the scandals started to pile up.

On Tuesday, the 26-year-old conservative North Carolina firebrand left his election night party early, and a spokesperson told reporters that he was conceding the race to state Sen. Chuck Edwards. The Associated Press later called the race for Edwards.

Cawthorn faced a slew of problems as he sought a second term — many of his own creation.

He infuriated fellow Republicans in Congress when he alleged that he was invited to orgies where people snorted cocaine. He was caught twice with guns at airport checkpoints. Then there were the videos that showed Cawthorn in sexually suggestive poses.

That led the state’s Republican establishment, including North Carolina’s two GOP senators, to mobilize against him.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump urged voters to give him a second chance. But that apparently wasn’t enough Tuesday.

Other notable U.S. House races:


A Republican congressman whom Trump once called a “third rate Grandstander” and a “disaster” for Kentucky coasted to victory Tuesday in his primary election.

Rep. Thomas Massie had angered Trump by trying to obstruct a massive COVID-19 relief package in 2020 when he was in the White House. Trump took to Twitter to urge GOP leaders to “throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

The two apparently patched things up. The bill passed, and Trump endorsed Massie earlier this month.

Massie’s primary was among the first congressional races to be called during Tuesday’s primary elections in Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Idaho and Pennsylvania.


Clay Aiken won the affection of TV viewers across the U.S. in 2003 as the runner-up in the hit reality show “American Idol.” His effort this year to win a Democratic primary in a U.S. House race from North Carolina came up shorter.

Aiken, who lost a congressional election in 2014, was defeated on Tuesday by state Sen. Valerie Foushee. He finished a distant third.

Foushee, a local school board member before joining the General Assembly, benefited from big super PAC spending on her behalf. One associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee spent $2.1 million on ads supporting her candidacy, while a second group financed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried spent $1 million.

The district leans heavily Democratic, meaning Foushee’s primary victory is likely enough to win her the seat.


An establishment-backed state lawmaker won the Democratic primary for Kentucky’s only Democrat-held U.S. House seat Tuesday, defeating an activist who drew national attention during protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Morgan McGarvey, the top Democrat in the Kentucky Senate, defeated state Rep. Attica Scott, a former Louisville council member.

McGarvey held a big fundraising advantage and an endorsement from incumbent U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, the House Budget Committee chair who is retiring after 15 years in the seat. McGarvey, an attorney, was also endorsed by several state lawmakers and labor unions.

Scott, a Black woman, was arrested during 2020 protests over Taylor’s death. But she was also called a “fraud” by Taylor’s mom, who suggested that those involved in the protests were raising money off her daughter’s name.

Louisville — the state’s largest city — remains a Democratic stronghold while most of Kentucky is solidly Republican.


U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate Oregon Democrat, has often been at odds with his party. He likened Trump’s second impeachment trial to a “lynching,” voted against Nancy Pelosi for House speaker in 2019, and helped contribute to the collapse of President Joe Biden’s social spending agenda with his opposition to parts of it.

Despite that, Schrader, a seven-term congressman, won Biden’s endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s primary in his newly redrawn district. The district is slightly less Democratic than before and contains only about half of the voters who previously elected him to Congress.

Progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner has the backing of the local Democratic parties in all four counties covered by the seat. If she wins, she could face a tough general election campaign against the Republican victor.


Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho faced conservative attorney Bryan Smith on the ballot in 2014 and smoked him by more than 20 percentage points. This time could be different.

Simpson has inflamed some hard-line conservatives because he supported an investigation into the origins of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. He also called Trump “unfit to be president” back in 2016.

Now the 12-term congressman has drawn a handful of primary challengers, including Smith, for the 2nd Congressional District that he’s represented since 1999.

One of the biggest issues in the race is local. Simpson advocated for breaching dams along the Snake River to help protect salmon. Smith says it would devastate the state.

“He’s basically declared war on farmers, ranchers and families,” Smith told the Idaho Falls Post Register.


Big spending by a cryptocurrency billionaire helped catapult political newcomer Carrick Flynn to front-runner status in the crowded Democratic primary for Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District, near Portland.

Flynn has said he does not have strong feelings about cryptocurrency, a industry that has spent big this year to elect their preferred candidates. But he’s been the beneficiary of a $10 million advertising campaign from the group Protect Our Future and is the rare primary candidate to win the backing of House Democratic leadership.

Loretta Smith, a Carrick rival who wants to be the first Black woman from Oregon elected to Congress, said it is “disrespectful and it’s wrong” for Pelosi’s campaign arm to get involved.

She and other Democrats in the race criticized the move during a joint news conference where they decried it as an insult to Oregon voters.

In the nine-person primary, Carrick appears locked in a close race with state Rep. Andrea Salinas, a three-term state lawmaker who would become Oregon’s first Hispanic woman in Congress if elected.