Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

‘I want to get government power out of our lives,’ Cawthorn says

Madison Cawthorn Madison Cawthorn

Madison Cawthorn, a native of Henderson County, has a compelling personal biography that starts with deep family roots in the mountains, veers into a horrific car crash at age 18 that nearly killed him and left him partially paralyzed and focused his ambition on what he describes as a need to “save my country.”

“I wish I had been around for longer but unfortunately my country needs me now,” he says. “I look at where we’re heading I realize if we don’t start putting the fire out on this ship, it’s going to consume everything … so I’m trying to do my civic duty and save my country.
If he is elected on Nov. 3 at the age of 25, Cawthorn would become the youngest member of Congress, which ironically would mean that retiree-rich Henderson County would be represented by the youngest members of both the North Carolina and U.S. House of Representatives. (N.C. Rep. Jake Johnson, 26, of Saluda, is the youngest member of the General Assembly.)
Cawthorn is engaged to be married to Cristina Bayardelle, a physician assistant for anesthesia, in April.
His third quarter campaign finance report shows that he raised $3.57 million, had spent $3.5 million and had $263,000 cash on hand on Sept. 30.
Here is the Lightning interview with Cawthorn:


How have you managed to campaign during the pandemic?

“I’ve been campaigning extremely well. We used social media throughout the runoff and the primary, which we were very effective on that. As Covid restrictions have lessened, we’ve had more and more in-person events — granted they’re all outside. The Democrats have really ceded the ground game to us so we’re going to make a big difference on Election Day across the country.”


What do you say when Moe Davis calls your rally super spreader events that jeopardize the health of your supporters?

“I would say prove it. I think if you were to see large-scale breakouts at these events we definitely would have heard about it because we keep in contact with all these people very regularly.”

On the issue of qualifications and experience, what do you say when your opponent points to his military service, administrative law judge experience and knowledge of Congress?

“One, I will say that’s a fair question. I wish I was 55 years old but unfortunately I’m only 25. I wish I had been around for longer but unfortunately my country needs me now. I look at where we’re heading I realize if we don’t start putting the fire out on this ship, it’s going to consume everything so I’m trying to do my civic duty and save my country.”

When did you decide to run?

“I believe it was Dec. 19. I heard that Mark Meadows was dropping out and I took about three hours to decide if I was going to run. I talked to my fiancée. We decided we’re going to do it and we’ve been working ever since.”

What made you jump into it?

“The big reason is it’s a way to serve my country. I don’t see going to Congress as a way to gain power, I see it as a way to be a servant of the people and I think it’s everyone’s duty to serve their country in some capacity.”

On the campaign trail, you often suggest we’re going in the wrong direction and you’re worried about the rise of socialism.

“I’m very worried about the rise of socialism. I’m very worried about big government. We see government growing more day by day, gaining more and more power, gaining more and more control of our culture and our society. I want to reverse that trend. I want to get government power out of our lives. I want freedom to be the ruling value of our country and I want government to stay out of our lives.”


The Trump administration has a poor record on the national debt. What will you do when you get to Congress about the national debt?

“I think they need to take it seriously. They’ve been doing a terrible job. The reason President Trump didn’t endorse me (in the primary) is because I’m willing to be strongly critical of him whenever he messes up. I’m not planning to vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. I’m planning on voting for an ideology and I’m voting for an ideology that Donald Trump represents.”

To be clear, President Trump endorses you now.

“He does endorse me now but I have not sought that in any way, I don’t necessarily want it because I don’t really care.”

You’re not embracing the endorsement of President Trump?

“No, I’m not. I embrace the endorsement of people of Western North Carolina and that’s it.”

On the subject of character, there’s been news coverage of your association with symbols that are said to represent white supremacy and some #metoo accusations from back in high school. What do you say to voters about those?

“I’ll speak to both of those. I actually thank Anderson Cooper (of CNN) for coming to my defense when it comes to the issue of white supremacy. He had someone from the Antidefamation League on his show to speak about issues and he was asking, ‘Do you see any connection between this young gentleman Cawthorn and white supremacy?’ They came on and said, ‘No, absolutely not. Hundreds of thousands of people go to see (Hitler’s summer retreat) every single year. They’re there to celebrate victory over Nazism, not being some kind of sympathizer. Also, we don’t see any ties to white supremacy just because he likes Roman history.’ When it comes to antics I pulled in high school, I guess the best way to respond to that is if I have a daughter I definitely want her to grow up in a world where people have to ask permission to be able to touch her. I think that would make a lot of situations less awkward in high school. Also, if I have a son, I don’t want him to be considered some kind of sexual predator just because he tried to kiss a girl.”

Your campaign has been running spots about Moe Davis’s tweets and offensive remarks attacking you and your supporters. Are you saying that’s disqualifying?

“I’m very critical of Donald Trump as well when it comes to tweeting. Both the president and Moe Davis are very childish in the way they tweet. It does more to add to the partisan divide rather than try to heal it and unite us all as Americans. These dark and twisted, very sexual and vulgar comments that we see coming from Moe Davis is exactly the problem with Washington right now. It’s so divided, it’s so divisive. It makes people enemies of each other instead of saying we are Americans first and let’s work towards the future.”

What is your position on immigration and the wall? Is that a hot, live issue in the 11th Congressional District?

“It’s not a hot live issue. I think a big reason is there has been a significant portion of the border that already has a wall built on it. That’s done a lot to curtail immigration. But also it is not the big problem right now. Fortunately, because of Covid-19, we’ve really locked down our border extremely well.”

Do you support President Trump and what would you like to see in a second term?

“I do support President Trump. I think he’s done a great job on a foreign policy basis. But what I’d like to see from him more is handling domestic issues with a little more tact. Two, I’d like to see him tackle debt a little more heavily, and three, I would like to bring more manufacturing jobs back and expand the opportunity zones that we already have in place so we can get more long-term investment in Western North Carolina.”

That segues into internet access and broadband, particularly given that children are sent home from school with a laptop to a home in a mountain holler with no internet. Do you have a position on expanded broadband access in Western North Carolina?

“I want to allow the free market to be able to do it. I do think there’s a role of government to create this infrastructure around the world in the form of tax incentives most likely or something like the 1930s” and the Rural Electrification Administration.

Can you elaborate on your position on health care?

“I think we need to drastically reduce regulations that surround the health care industry, one, to create more competition in the market. We need to increase the number of insurance companies (beyond Blue Cross Blue Shield, which dominates the market in North Carolina) because I think that’s going to reduce costs. We have these extraordinarily high administrative costs inside of health insurance. That’s why you would never see a public option plan work. If we were to switch over to a public option, you would lessen the pool inside the private sector so much that the private sector would collapse on itself and everybody would be forced into the government plan.”

If you are sworn in on Jan. 3, what would be your first priorities as Congressman Cawthorn?

“I want to be the face of health care reform, two is going to be rural broadband and three is going to be term limits.”

What is your term limit plan?

“I would say six terms in Congress, two terms in the Senate.”

What are your ambitions beyond Congress?

“I probably want to serve in Congress for four or six years, then something like that. Get out of politics and focus on raising my family.”

* * * * *

Editor's note: The print version of this interview in the Oct. 21 issue of the Lightning incorrectly stated the campaign finance totals for Cawthorn.