N. Carolina Rep. Cawthorn seeks to block candidacy challenge

Feb 1, 2022, 12:25 PM | Updated: 1:20 pm
CORRECTS YEAR IN SECOND REFERENCE TO 2022 FILE - In this image taken from video, Rep. Madison Cawth...

CORRECTS YEAR IN SECOND REFERENCE TO 2022 FILE - In this image taken from video, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 7, 2021. A group of North Carolina voters told state officials on Monday, Jan.10, 2022 they want Cawthorn disqualified as a congressional candidate, citing his involvement in last January’s rally in Washington questioning the presidential election outcome before a Capitol riot later that day. (House Television via AP, File)

(House Television via AP, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn has sued to block efforts by voters seeking to prevent him from running for Congress this year because of his involvement in the January 2021 rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot.

The Republican’s lawsuit, filed in federal court, says the state’s candidate challenge process violates his constitutional rights and should be overturned. His lawyers also cite as nonapplicable a post-Civil War amendment to the Constitution that prohibits members of Congress who have engaged in an insurrection to continue serving.

The voters’ protest, initiated last month with the help of a national election and campaign finance reform group, is likely to be the first of similar candidate challenges in other states against members of Congress associated with the insurrection. The 14th Amendment says, in part, that no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

The amendment was aimed in part at preventing congressmen who had fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War from returning to Congress.

Cawthorn, 26 and currently in his first term representing western North Carolina, said Tuesday in a news release from his lawyer’s office detailing the litigation that he has “never engaged in, or would ever engage in, an insurrection against the United States.”

He said the amendment provision and North Carolina candidate challenge law are “being used as a weapon by liberal Democrats to attempt to defeat our democracy by having state bureaucrats, rather than the people, choose who will represent North Carolina in Congress.”

“I’m defending not only my rights, but the right of the people to democratically elect their representatives,” he said.

Nearly a dozen voters urged the State Board of Elections to disqualify Cawthorn as a candidate, saying he fails to comply with the portion of the 14th Amendment pertaining to insurrections. Cawthorn’s speech at the rally supporting then-President Donald Trump, his other comments and information in published reports provide a “reasonable suspicion or belief” that he helped facilitate the insurrection, the challenge reads.

Under state law, the five-member state board must create a special panel of county board members from the new 13th Congressional District that Cawthorn plans to run in. The panel is required to conduct a hearing that ideally will be completed within four weeks. State judges have put formation of the panel on hold, however, while redistricting litigation is pending.

The lawsuit, filed against the board in Raleigh federal court Monday, says the candidate investigation law violates Cawthorn’s right to run for political office because it is triggered by a “reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing and shifts the burden of proof away from his accusers.

“Here, Rep. Cawthorn is required to produce countervailing evidence to prove a negative,” says the lawsuit, signed in part by James Bopp, a longtime Indiana-based elections lawyer connected to conservative causes.

The U.S. House “is the exclusive judge of the qualifications of its members,” the lawsuit says. An 1872 federal law removed office-holding disqualifications for most Confederates but kept the prohibition in part for those who served in only a couple of specific sessions of Congress. The 14th Amendment provision cited by the voters who are protesting Cawthorn’s candidacy states that Congress can vote to remove such disqualifications. Therefore, the provision doesn’t apply to Cawthorn, according to the lawsuit.

Cawthorn also seeks a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the law. The News & Observer of Raleigh was the first to report on it.

Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People and a lawyer representing the North Carolina voters who filed the challenge, said he will oppose Cawthorn’s lawsuit in court. Cawthorn’s “attempt to bypass the state’s well-developed procedures for resolving candidacy challenges is based on misunderstandings of federal and state law,” Fein said in an emailed statement.

Cawthorn, a close ally of Trump, said last month in an interview that he stands by his Jan. 6 actions, particularly his objection to the certifications of the presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden.

North Carolina’s primary election is currently set for May 17 after being delayed from its initial date of March 8. It could be postponed again if the state Supreme Court strikes down the congressional boundaries that the General Assembly is redrawing. Lawmakers would have to repeat the mapping process.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

GOP attacks Minnesota governor in $250M food fraud case

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republicans attacked Democratic Gov. Tim Walz on Monday after a judge took the rare step of disputing the administration’s claim that the judge prevented it from cutting off payments to Feeding Our Future, which is the target of a $250 million federal fraud case. The GOP candidates for governor, attorney […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Wichita man sentenced in ‘swatting’ case that led to death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for his role in a hoax phone call that led police to shoot and kill an innocent man in 2017. Shane Gaskill was sentenced after pleading guilty in May to wire fraud, KSN reported. He was originally placed on probation […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Joyce Chiles, chief prosecutor for Mississippi's Fourth Judicial District, is seen in her of...
Associated Press

Prosecutor who worked on 1 renewal of Emmett Till case dies

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Funeral services were held Monday for the Mississippi prosecutor who worked on one of the renewed investigations into the 1955 lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till, a killing that galvanized the civil rights movement after his mother insisted on an open-casket funeral so people could see her son’s mutilated body. Joyce […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Man arraigned in slaying of Detroit radio news anchor

CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A 55-year-old man has been charged in the slaying of a Detroit radio news anchor during an attack that also left two children and their mother injured. Arthur Williamson was arraigned Monday in district court in New Baltimore and ordered jailed on murder, assault with intent to murder and unlawful […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. poses for a portrait outside of his home on Dec. 5, 2018, in Blade...
Associated Press

Plea agreements reached by 4 in NC Congress ballot probe

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Four people pleaded guilty on Monday to misdemeanors for their roles in absentee ballot fraud in rural North Carolina during the 2016 and 2018 elections. The convictions stemmed from an investigation that in part resulted in a do-over congressional election. Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway accepted the plea agreements in Wake […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Meredith Tax, feminist author and activist, dead at age 80

NEW YORK (AP) — Meredith Tax, a prominent activist and writer of second-wave feminism who challenged herself, her peers and the world at large to rethink long-held ideas about gender, race and class, has died. She was 80. Tax died Sunday, according to her friend Frances Kissling, who did not immediately provide additional details. Her […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
N. Carolina Rep. Cawthorn seeks to block candidacy challenge