Rep. Madison Cawthorn lost his first reelection bid on Tuesday after serving in Congress for less than two years, as he buckled under the weight of a series of sex scandals in recent times. The 26-year-old right-wing firebrand was defeated by North Carolina state Sen. Chuck Edwards in Tuesday's Republican primary for the right to represent the solidly red 11th Congressional District.
As a result, Edwards is expected to advance to the general election in November, while Cawthorn's House career will come to an end in January after one term. This also comes as a major setback for former President Donald Trump who had backed Cawthorn and had urged voters to give him a "second chance."
All Over for Cawthorn
Cawthorn's spokesman Luke Ball said on late Tuesday that Cawthorn had called Edwards to concede. With almost 99 percent of the votes tabulated, Edwards won by a razor-thin margin against Cawthorn, who received 33.5 percent of the vote to Cawthorn's 31.6 percent.
Edwards, who described himself as a Washington outsider, exceeded the 30% level required to avoid a runoff in July.
Cawthorn, lost despite an 11th-hour appeal from Trump to voters to look past Cawthorn's run-ins with the law and accusations from fellow lawmakers that he uses cocaine and engage in orgies, and photographs of him wearing lingerie and gyrating naked atop another guy in bed.
"Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don't believe he'll make again," Trump, who had previously endorsed Cawthorn, said Monday on Truth Social. "[L]et's give Madison a second chance!"
However, nothing helped. And Cawthorn, as many had expected, lost.
On the other hand, Edwards was being backed by Senator Thom Tillis, a fellow member of North Carolina's Congressional delegation who has become one of Cawthorn's most vocal critics. Edwards released a statement on Tuesday night declaring his victory to be 'incredible.'
"Against all odds, we fought hard to win this election and provide clear conservative leadership for the mountains. I am so grateful for the support I received and am forever indebted to the hardworking people of this district who made this victory possible," Edwards said.
End of the Road
Tuesday's loss, in a way, could be the end of the road for Cawthorn. The young politician was seen as a rising star in the GOP when he was elected to replace the then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in 2020, but his first term has been marred by a series of public gaffes.
Many Republican voters in the district believed Cawthorn was an embarrassment â and, perhaps more importantly, that he sought national prominence at the price of completing his job at home.
However, the re-election campaign of the 26-year-old Republican was largely viewed as one of the most important tests of Trump's endorsement power. Despite a string of recent public relations disasters, supporters of Cawthorn and the former president thought Trump's support would propel him over the finish line.
That, although, didn't happen and Cawthorn is the only one responsible for this.
He was charged twice with carrying a handgun to an airport in the months leading up to Tuesday's primary and even faced inquiries about images of him clad in women's lingerie. In March, Cawthorn described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a "thug" in charge of an "incredibly evil" regime in March.
However, it was his comments on a podcast in late March likening Congress to the fictitious series "House of Cards" that infuriated Cawthorn's Capitol Hill colleagues.
"The sexual perversion that goes on in Washington, I mean, being kind of a young guy in Washington, where the average age is probably 60 or 70 â [you] look at all these people, a lot of them that I've looked up to through my life ... Then all of a sudden you get invited. 'We're going to have a sexual get-together at one of our homes, you should come.'
"'What did you just ask me to come to?' And then you realize they're asking you to come to an orgy," he said, later adding: "You watch them do a bump of cocaine right in front of you, and it's like, 'This is wild.'"
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) scolded Cawthorn for this, telling reporters that the North Carolinian had "lost my trust" and would have to " earn it back."
After speaking to his supporters, Cawthorn reportedly exited his election night celebration just before 10:30 p.m. "No matter what you are facing, when Donald Trump has your back, he has your back until the end," the young lawmaker said, vowing to fight on.