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Face masks are out, flags in at Cawthorn's tailgate party

Nathan Malazzo poses with congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn. Nathan Malazzo poses with congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn.

Social distancing and face masks were out and the American flag was in for congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn's tailgate party on Main Street Saturday.

Flouting guidelines from national and state public health authorities, supporters of Cawthorn congregated as if it were a pleasant May day B.C. — Before Covid — declared their fatigue with the shutdown ordered by the state's Democratic governor and supported restaurants by getting takeout.

Cawthorn and his campaign aides did their part, buying a fresh strawberry pie from McFarland's Bakery, calamari from Mezzaluna and fried shrimp and a rack of ribs from Moe's Original BBQ.

"All the restaurants I've visited are ready for the lockdown to be over," he said at Mezzaluna. "It's presented as a binary choice (between stopping the covid spread and safely reopening) but I think there's a way we can do both."

Billed as a nonpartisan event to support struggling downtown restaurants, the Great American Tailgate Party tilted pro-Republican and anti-social distancing.

Relaxing in front of the Historic Courthouse, John "Mitch" Mitchell noted that the event he organizes on Main Street — a quarterly pub crawl — is out. He supports Cawthorn, who faces Lynda Bennett in a June 23 runoff election for the Republican nomination for the open 11th Congressional District seat.

"He's young, he's got great ideas of what to do with the economy and our government," Mitchell said.

"He's local," added Chelsea Walsh, who was also gathered in the group of friends. "He has the best chance of reaching young voters."

"He's pro-Second Amendment, which is big," added her father, Jack Walsh.

Steve urged people to support GOP. Steven urged people to support GOP. Nearby, Steven, a demonstrator who wanted to be identified by his first name only, held a large sign that said, "Save America. Vote Republican. God Bless You."

Once a Marine always Marine, Steve described himself as a patriot and a Christian with a personal relationship with Christ.

"He's my pilot," he said. "I took an oath to defend America against terrorists. And don't doubt that there are terrorist in America." He counts Gov. Roy Cooper among them, for his lockdown orders, although he was quick to add the stay-at-home order meant nothing to him. "I never adhered to it," he said. "It was all planned by the deep state and the Democrats, including the coronavirus. Christians need to get off their butt and quit waiting for the Rapture."

Waiting on his order of fried shrimp and ribs outside Moe's, Cawthorn also made it clear face masks and social distance were not for him, either. He and supporter Nathan Malazzo, wearing a MAGA hat and a wide grin, posed for a thumbs up photo, their faces closer to 6 inches apart than 6 feet.