The runoff election to determine the Republican Party candidate for the 11th Congressional District seat will take place Tuesday, June 23.
All registered Republicans who live in the 11th Congressional District may vote in the runoff election. Unaffiliated voters who live in the 11th District who either did not vote in the March primary or voted a Republican ballot in the primary may also vote in the runoff. Unaffiliated voters who voted a nonpartisan, Democratic, or Libertarian ballot in the first primary may not participate in the runoff election.
The contest, which is North Carolina’s only runoff election in 2020, is between Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn, who are vying for the GOP nomination. The winner will face Democratic Party candidate Moe Davis, Green Party candidate Tamara Zwinak and Libertarian Party candidate Tracey DeBruhl in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The Cherokee Scout spoke with Bennett and Cawthorn about their campaigns over the last couple weeks. Their interviews are placed in alphabetical order.
With 35 years of business experience, Bennett has owned a real estate company, a tourism-based vacation rentals company and a heavy equipment company. She has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, former U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
With her first term in office, Bennett would like to create more year-round, full-time employment for residents of western North Carolina.
“A lot of people work really hard in the summer and then, a lot of times, their jobs fall off; they have part-time work or get laid-off for the winter,” she said. “It makes it hard to make ends meet all year long. And even though they’re hard working and willing to work, it’s just not as much opportunity in the winter months.”
Bennett said one of the main reasons for the employment reduction is the nature of western North Carolina’s tourist- and service-based economy. If elected, she would work to incentivize small businesses to relocate to western North Carolina and hire local residents.
However, she hopes to attract industries that are not particularly seasonal. Acknowledging that she cannot simply “wave a magic wand” and force industries to relocate, Bennett said robotics and metalworking companies could thrive in the mountains.
“You can make all sorts of things here because we have the highways and good, hard workers who want a job and are loyal. They don’t want to move,” Bennett said.
She also envisions a use for older motels that are either no longer in business or struggling to survive during the off-season.
“We can convert a motel into an entrepreneurial zone where small businesses could start up, have their own room [as an office] and bathroom, but wouldn’t need a full-size building,” Bennett said, comparing her idea to co-working spaces found in metropolitan areas. “And it cuts down the cost for their overhead.”
She acknowledged that spotty internet service can be a hindrance to many people who might want to start a small business in the mountains. However, shared workspaces could help overcome that obstacle.
“In the past, we have focused a lot on trying to replace some of the big employers that we lost,” Bennett said. “It’s going to be challenging to get those types of businesses to come back. Some of the mountain counties don’t have the right kind of typography for a big factory or big distribution center. But I think we can get many small businesses to come here.”
If elected, Bennett would also work toward scaling back government. She wants to join the House Freedom Caucus, which proclaims to “support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”
Bennett also supports H.R.6635, known as the One Bill, One Subject Transparency Act. The bill, which was introduced in the House in April, would require each bill or joint resolution to include no more than one subject, which must be clearly and descriptively expressed in the legislation’s title.
“This is the way you cut costs,” Bennett said. “We can structurally change the way our deficit builds, grows and increases out debt by changing the way our process works.”
Meanwhile, Bennett opposes H.R.5717, known as the Gun Violence Prevention & Community Safety Act of 2020, which was introduced in the House in January. Among other regulations, the bill would impose a 30 percent tax on firearms, a 50 percent tax on ammunition and would ban future sales of semiautomatic assault weapons.
“They try to use taxation to control your actions and activity, and a taxation on those two items would be to slow the use or purchase of those products,” Bennett said. “We have enough legislation dealing with gun ownership or the handling of ammunition.
“Statistically speaking, most of the things that liberals on the left are proposing don’t actually help save lives. They’re not focused on gun control; they’re focused on control over us, over every aspect of our lives.”
Bennett also supports term limits, and even signed a pledge to vote in favor of legislation that furthers that goal. She would vote to limit senatorial terms to two (12 years total) and congressional terms to three (six years total).
“It’s hard to stand strong with a backbone of steel year after year for 30 years,” she said, adding that career politicians often fall victim to progressivism the longer they remain in office. “You constantly feel like, ‘I’m in government to get something done and therefore should fix this, or that the government should do this,’ instead of believing that the people can take care of it themselves.
“The longer they’re there, the longer they believe they have to get something done and to do it they must have the government accomplish it – and that’s progressivism.”
If elected, Bennett vows to remain accessible to voters in the 11th District.
“Constituent services have to be second to none here in western North Carolina,” she said. “We have one of the largest veteran populations of any district. [Veteran services] and social security are two of the biggest issues that constituent services have to deal with in the congressional office, so it has to be a top priority and it will be.”
As an eighth-generation resident of North Carolina’s 11th District, Madison Cawthorn is chief executive officer of a real estate investment company and a motivational speaker. He was nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy by Meadows in 2014. However, Cawthorn’s plans were hindered after he nearly died in a tragic car accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
He has been endorsed by several law enforcement officers throughout the state and four other primary candidates who sought the 11th Congressional District seat in the March election. With his first term in office, Cawthorn would focus on one of two issues, depending on the number of Republicans in the House.
“If we’re in the majority, I really want to reform health care for the everyday American,” he said. “We could live longer if health care was more affordable because people would receive more preemptive and proactive medical care rather than being reactive, which is just sick care instead of health care.”
Cawthorn would seek to impose a federal mandate to override state laws that allow Blue Cross Blue Shield to have a “virtual monopoly” on health insurance throughout the state.
“A lot of businesses are required to have a certificate of need, so it’s very difficult to open an insurance company in North Carolina,” he said, adding that removing such a requirement would increase competition and drive down health-care costs.
If Republicans are the minority in the House, Cawthorn would focus on revamping infrastructure throughout western North Carolina. He feels the government should find a way to help offset the costs for companies that may want to offer better broadband service, but fear the potential clientele is not enough to justify the expenditure.
“It’s sad that there’s not enough cell towers,” he said. “In some of the far-western counties, a lot of public education institutions do not have reliable broadband internet. Plus, a lot of people are missing out on this high-tech economy that is emerging, and it’s hurting our businesses out west.”
Cawthorn would also like to change the conversation surrounding the drug epidemic.
“We need to rethink the war on drugs,” he said. “We have been treating this like a battle, as if we’ll be able to overcome the enemy of addiction with more boots on the ground. But I feel it has a heavy mental health component to it.”
He also feels the government has grown too large, and legislation is needed to scale back overreach.
“The federal government is doing a lot of things that’s not really enumerated for them to be able to do in the Constitution,” Cawthorn said. “We have consolidated power in Washington a little too much, so my goal would be to send a lot of the decisions and a lot of the lawmaking back to the states.”
In addition to supporting legislation that would limit the number of issues that could be addressed by a single bill, Cawthorn would also seek to eliminate federal agencies whose work is redundant or can be addressed at the local level. His first target would be the U.S. Department of Education. He believes the elimination of federal requirements on education would allow local leaders to better address the educational needs of their community.
“I would like to abolish the U.S. Department of Education,” Cawthorn said. “That does not mean I want to get rid of public education. It just means I want to de-federalize it. Our politicians have this one-size-fits-all mentality, but I think we need to allow the county commissioners and school board more power to make changes and spend money where it works better for the people.”
He also feels the Department of Education is to fault for the rise of socialist sentiment in America.
“The indoctrination happens specifically in history class,” Cawthorn said. “We have a very selective process through which a lot of our history instructors teach. That’s why we see this rise in socialist sentiment in our country. We need a more thorough version of history instruction, where people can understand the pitfalls of certain actions.”
As a staunch proponent of the Second Amendment, Cawthorn opposes H.R.5717 and feels that it is just the next step in an agenda to phase out gun ownership.
“They’re creating a price barrier,” he said. “But I would like to introduce a counter bill called constitutional carry that would allow your concealed carry permit in North Carolina to have reciprocity all over the entire country, so you don’t have to worry about driving across the country and getting arrested for having your gun.”
Cawthorn is also in favor of term limits that would cap senatorial terms at two and congressional terms at six.
“That would be 12 years each,” he said. “If you can’t get something done in 12 years, I don’t want you representing me.”
If elected, Cawthorn would also strive to remove money out of politics by introducing legislation that would restrict how elected officials raise funds.
“If you are running for Congress, you should only be able to raise money in your congressional district,” he said. “If you are running for governor, you should only be able to raise money in your state, and so on and so forth. There’s so much money in politics and backroom deals that career politicians are just in it to see how much money they can make.
“We need to get rid of money in politics and impose term limits. I think that would really change the culture. If you check my Federal Election Commission report, you’ll see I have over 2,000 individual donors from western North Carolina. That means the people I am loyal to are the people of these mountains. I will answer to no one else.”