A new and young upcoming Republican in the race for Mark Meadows’ North Carolina 11th Congressional seat.  Nancy



The fighter

When Mark Meadows resigned from Congress on March 30 to become White House chief of staff, he vacated a coveted seat. North Carolina’s recently redrawn 11th Congressional District encompasses most of the state’s mountainous western region and tilts Republican despite the liberal city of Asheville at its center.

Of the 12 candidates on the Republican primary ballot in March, the only two who earned more than 10% of the vote were 62-year-old businesswoman Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn, who will not meet the constitutional age requirement for Congress until his 25th birthday on Aug. 1. Because neither broke the requisite 30%, the contest to replace Meadows has led to a June 23 runoff election that will pit two generations of the GOP against each other.

Cawthorn and his story are well known in western North Carolina, where his familial roots extend to the Revolutionary War. Once a staffer for Meadows, he was nominated by the former congressman to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, but his plans came crashing down on April 3, 2014, when a catastrophic car accident left him partially paralyzed at the age of 18.

“When my accident happened, I had spent my entire life building my athletic ability, building my mental ability, making sure I could pass any tests I was ever given,” Cawthorn told the Washington Examiner. The homeschooling graduate had earned a full-ride ROTC scholarship from the U.S. Marine Corps. “I was the No. 1 pick in the whole nation. I had it all.”

“Everything was going great for me,” he continued. “I had a great family. I was extraordinarily healthy. Life couldn’t get much better for me.” The otherwise cheerful Cawthorn looked down sadly as he described the night when he was riding back with his friend from a spring break trip to Florida. “I’m asleep taking a nap, and I run into a wall at 70 miles per hour. My entire life was taken away from me.”

His friend had fallen asleep at the wheel of their SUV and plowed into a concrete road barrier. After his friend pulled him from the fiery wreck with the help of two bystanders, Cawthorn was flown to a trauma center in Daytona Beach. Remembering when he regained consciousness, he said, “I wake up and I can’t move my legs. All I see is my family around me, looking at me with nothing but pity.” That’s when he realized, “Wow, I’m really messed up, whatever’s going on.”

Cawthorn had been reclining with his legs up when they crashed, and the force of the impact snapped his spine. The accident burned him, shattered his ankle, broke his pelvis, and cost him a kidney. His internal organs were pushed up into his chest, crushing his lungs. “Both my lungs collapsed, so I couldn’t speak for a very long time,” he said, recalling how he learned to communicate with sign language. Only his head escaped injury. The doctors were amazed he survived.

Cawthorn spent many weeks in Florida until he was transferred to a hospital in Atlanta that specializes in spinal injuries. It wasn’t until more than four months after his accident that he was able to return to his hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina, where his ordeal had become a widely followed local news story. When he first went back to visit the Chick-fil-A where he had worked since he was 14, media were present, and many in the community showed up to applaud him. His former manager wept as he hugged him.

Should Cawthorn defeat Bennett in June and go on to win the general election in November, he would become the youngest member of Congress. That distinction is presently held by 30-year-old Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stands opposite him across the widening political gulf among the younger generation.

Cawthorn’s tragic situation gave him insight into why the big-government spending of Ocasio-Cortez might appeal to some people. “I had over $3 million in medical debt as an 18-year-old,” he said, for which reason he has made healthcare reform his top priority as a potential legislator. “I would like to be the face of the Republican Party when it comes to healthcare.”

Regarding solutions to a broken healthcare system, Cawthorn said, “For so long, the Republican Party has been the party of ‘no.’ They haven’t really presented a unified front.”

Cawthorn claims his debt pushed him and put him in a good position to start his own real estate investment business and become a motivational speaker, but he acknowledged “a lot of people in this country are hurting” because of their astronomical medical bills. “We’ve got to introduce more competition in that market to lower costs so that if someone has a catastrophic injury like I did, they’re not going to be $3 million in debt. That’s absurd.”

Along with defending the Second Amendment, which he says “protects all the other amendments,” the other pillar of Cawthorn’s campaign platform is resisting the rising tide of socialism in the United States. “So many people, the generation 40 and younger, are starting to fall and be deceived for all these lies that sound good,” he said. “It probably feels good to say, ‘I want to let everyone have the same standard of living,’ but I want to vote for not just what feels good, but what does good.”

Cawthorn is well acquainted with the objection that he is too young to serve in Congress. “We actually thought at the beginning of this campaign that was going to be probably one of my weakest areas,” he said, referring to his youth. “But I have found that is actually one of my greatest strengths, easily.”

Despite his ability to rattle off the ages of Founding Fathers such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton when they distinguished themselves in their 20s, Cawthorn concedes they lived in a different time, when lifespans were shorter and men grew up faster. He parries that argument, however, with a reminder that his own life expectancy was once 18 years. “I was supposed to die at 18. I had a 1% chance of life,” he said, a fact he says has given him “a very personal account of how precious life is.”

“I have had the misfortune of not being on this earth as long as my opponent has been,” he continued. “But I don’t think that’s a weakness. I think it gives me a vigor, it gives me a fire, and it gives me a fight that you’re not going to see in someone who is going to rest on their laurels and say, ‘Oh, I’m successful.'”

Cawthorn is also conscious of the GOP’s generational sea change exhibited by the election of President Trump, of whom he is a fan. He believes “messaging” has been the chief weakness of the Republican old guard. “I really feel like they were so idealistic and such conservative ideologues,” he said.

Acknowledging he is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, Cawthorn said he believes too many conservatives have cared only about the politics that have always worked, while letting the culture slip away to the Left. “They said, ‘Oh, well, we don’t need to worry about culture. We don’t need to worry about what the sheep think.'” He pointed to younger politicians such as Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw and congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna as examples of those who use social media effectively to convey to their generation that “the policies the Left wants to push are both morally and financially bankrupt.”

“I think a lot of people realize that there is a generational time bomb going off in the Republican Party,” Cawthorn said. “And if we don’t start defusing it right now, then 20, 30 years down the road, maybe even sooner, we’re going to lose every single election for the rest of time.” He believes the GOP needs to start reaching out to young people and passing the torch or else “it’s going to be very, very bad.”

Cawthorn, who missed first place in March by about 2,000 of the more than 90,000 votes cast, said “effectiveness” is what distinguishes him most as a candidate. Much like Trump, he sells himself as someone who is not beholden to PACs, special interests, and “D.C. bosses.” Because of what he has suffered, he believes himself to be uniquely equipped to represent North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District faithfully amid the corruption of Washington, D.C.

“If I could go back and if I could do it all over again, I would make sure I didn’t fall asleep, because I do not want to be in this wheelchair. But I will say that this wheelchair has given me some lessons that I do not think I could have learned in any other way,” he said. “It has given me a sense of fight and a sense of grit.”

“It’s taken me to the deep abyss. I have looked into hell, I’ve looked at it in the eyes, and I know how bad life can be,” he said. “And so because of that, I know I’ll never waver.” He credits his faith in God with having sustained him. To those who see him simply as “the guy with a big smile in the wheelchair,” who might get pushed around by the bigwigs on Capitol Hill, Cawthorn asserts, “I was burned alive. I died in a car accident and then I came back to life.”

“If they want to push me or do whatever they can, I promise I will fight back because I have been through far worse than they could ever imagine,” he added. “I will never, never not do what my constituents want of me. The people of western North Carolina are the only people I care about. I really think that my accident has given me the resolve to represent them.”



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