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Cawthorn, Bennett in runoff for GOP nomination

Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn are running in the Republican primary runoff for U.S. House North Carolina District 11 on May 12, 2020 Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn are running in the Republican primary runoff for U.S. House North Carolina District 11 on May 12, 2020

Hendersonville native Madison Cawthorn finished second in the Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District, setting up a likely runoff against Lynda Bennett, the Maggie Valley real estate agent who had the endorsement of the retiring incumbent, Mark Meadows.

Bennett had won 22.7 percent of the vote and Cawthorn 22.4 percent with all but 19 of 2,670 precincts reporting.

Cawthorn, who ran a strong campaign, inched up from second to third place Tuesday night, edging out Sen. Jim Davis of Frankli for the presumptive runoff. Unless he were to concede, which is unlikely, Cawthorn would face Bennett in a runoff.  State law allows a runoff when no candidate receives 30 percent of the vote plus one. In a candidate forum in January, Cawthorn made it clear that he would not be prone to withdraw if he finished second.

“We’re not the Democratic Party. We all share a core sense of values," he said. "I think that any one of the 10 candidates here would be an excellent representative, much better than a Democrat. Because we all share core values and we all have human decency and we’re all Southerners, I believe that if we go to a runoff election we’re not going to start playing the dirty games that are going to damage us in the general election … just giving the Democrats ammunition in November. I believe a runoff is absolutely acceptable in this race because we’re all decent people, we’re all Christians, we all believe in the Second Amendment, we’re all pro-wall, we’re pro-Trump, we all want to join the Freedom Caucus, we’re all good people, we will not take each other down.”

The runoff would pit Bennett, whom Meadows has endorsed, against Cawthorn, who worked as an aide in the congressman's district office after he survived a horrendouse car crash.

An eighth generation native of Western North Carolina, Cawthorn on the campaign trail tells the story of his dramatic personal story. In 2014 as a high school senior he had won a nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy. “My plans were derailed, though, when I was on a road trip with a good friend of mine,” he said during the Republican forum on Jan. 25. “We were driving at 70 mph down in Florida and for whatever reason he fell asleep at the wheel. The car ran headlong into a concrete wall and my life was changed forever. After being burned alive, having every major bone structure in my body broken and coming to within an inch of death, I spent a long time in the hospital. There was months and months in the ICU and in a rehab hospital before I was able to return to my wonderful mountain community. Many of you in this room have prayed for me and those prayers sustained me and they got me through.”

Back home, Meadows offered him a job as a staff aide.
“I learned what it is to be a statesman from him,” he said. “I saw him work up close. When I heard that he was stepping down, I realized that now is the time to act. I realized we have no time to waste.”

In the Democratic primary Moe Davis won the Democratic nomination with close to 47 percent of the vote, over Gina Collias and three other candidates.