Republicans of Western North Carolina have spoken in a more unified voice than anyone expected.
On Tuesday, the party selected 24-year-old Madison Cawthorn of Henderson County to go up against Democrat Moe Davis in the General Election for the opportunity to represent the region in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Cawthorn managed to pull off an upset, topping Haywood opponent Lynda Bennett by over 30 percentage points.
Bennett received a few endorsements from high-profile Republicans, including former Congressman and current White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and President Donald Trump.
Within hours of Cawthorn’s victory, numerous national news outlets painted the victory as a rebuke of Trump and his endorsement. However, that simply isn’t true.
While The Mountaineer doesn’t endorse candidates for any race, we believe calling Cawthorn’s blowout victory a referendum on Trump is false.
Rather, it is a referendum on cronyism. The movement in the Republican Party to stand up to that cronyism began when Meadows announced about a day before the filing period ended that he wouldn’t run for a fifth term in the House of Representatives.
After filing, Bennett told The Mountaineer that she had spoken with Meadows’ wife, Debbie, about running for the office.
Not long after that, it came out that Bennett’s campaign domain name had been registered weeks earlier by Meadows’ brother.
Bennett led the field in the first primary, her ties with Meadows may have been the biggest blow to her candidacy in the runoff.
After The Mountaineer reported that Jim Davis, who finished third in the first primary, had been told by Meadows that the congressman wouldn’t endorse anyone, more Republicans stood up against what they perceived as an attempted rigged election. The fix was in, and they weren’t having it.
What’s important to realize is that the election result has far less to do with Bennett or Trump than it has to do with a local electorate standing up and deciding it wouldn’t be told what to do by high-profile Republicans with no ties to the district.
Secondly, the result was more indicative of Meadows, a Congressman who was extremely attentive to district needs early on and widely popular. Once he took the national stage as part of the high profile Freedom Caucus and later became known as the “Trump whisperer,” Meadows increasingly rebuffed local news outlets and seldom appeared at events within the district.
It was obviously a tactic that voters didn’t appreciate, and one that came with a backlash when he attempted to put his finger on the scale when it came to selecting his own successor.
Western North Carolinians have long been an independent lot, and that independence was on full display in the second primary for the 11th Congressional District.