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Forum features F-bomb, swipe at Robinson and a rush to the right

If audience members at Saturday’s forum for congressional candidates were hoping for a prodigious helping of conservative policies and right-wing talking points they did not leave disappointed.

All eight candidates for the Republican nomination for the 11th Congressional District seat showed up and mostly agreed that the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was nothing more than a legitimate protest, that the federal Department of Education should be eliminated and that earmarks in the budget are a form of bribery.

The forum also contained a few startling moments, including an F-bomb by Wendy Marie-Limbaugh Nevarez, a Navy veteran and mother of four. In fact, having the longest name on the ballot was not the only fact that separated Nevarez from the other seven — incumbent Madison Cawthorn, Bruce O’Connell, Chuck Edwards, Michele V. Woodhouse, Rod Honeycutt, Kristie Sluder and Matthew Burril.

All the candidates but Nevarez said that the Jan. 6 was not an insurrection but instead a valid protest over the 2020 election. Most agreed that they would work to abolish the Department of Education and said teachers should be barred from teaching critical race theory. All but one candidate — Nevarez, again — said they would support the Republican nominee. “That would be a no,” she said in response to the question.

The f-word made its surprising cameo in the three-hour forum when Nevarez touted her naval service in answering a question about defense spending, wokeness in military training and why two Navy ships collided at sea.

“As far as the defense budget, it’s not about reducing it, it’s about spending it more wisely,” she said. “I will say that readiness is a priority for me, obviously, because I was active duty for a decade and as somebody who was a prior sailor and was lee helm and helm qualified and took direction from a navigation officer, wokeness is not what you’re thinking about when you’re standing watch. You’re worried about your brothers and sisters around you. So those ships colliding was either piss-poor training or somebody not f---in’ paying attention. Excuse my language.”

When the candidates returned to the platform after a break, Nevarez took the opportunity to address her language.

“So first of all, I want to apologize to everybody in the room who has small children,” she said. “I have small children but like a lot of military people, you get pulled back into the moment. So when speaking about the Navy, I do apologize for that.”

That wasn’t even the last of Nevarez’s stage stealing moments. The crowd gasped when she delivered a riff on abortion.

“So I just want to make this other point that when it comes to abortion,” she said. “It inproportionately affects people who are poor and people of color. It’s interesting. Yeah, so your beloved Mr. Mark Robinson has clearly not had a problem with abortion. So I’ll just leave it with that.”

“Oh my God,” Cawthorn interjected.

“I will take one moment,” Cawthorn said at his next turn at the mic. “I believe it’s cowardly and weak to attack a man who can’t defend himself because he’s not here and I want to speak out for Mark Robinson. I was a sinner and was saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and I praise God for that. And I will not blame a man who’s gone on a personal journey to go from someone who was pro-choice to now being a pro-life advocate and a champion. I support Mark Robinson.” The crowd applauded.

Here’s more:

Regarding the incidents of Jan. 6, 2021, what was legal and what wasn’t, in your opinion, and was it an insurrection, a riot that got out of control or something else?

Edwards: “What was legal clearly was the right to assemble and show concern for what was going on in this country. What was illegal was folks attacking the Capitol, destroying property and, quite frankly, taking lives. It clearly was not an insurrection. It was a riot that was not brought under control by Nancy Pelosi when she would have had the opportunity to do that. It was a riot that was inflated by media outlets across this nation. It was very unfortunate. It was a dark day for America, but it was not an insurrection.”

Cawthorn: “I will tell you there a lot of people in my party that when we take the majority want to dissolve the sham Jan. 6 committee. I will tell you I do not want to dissolve the Jan. 6 committee because there are some questions that I would like answers to. Why were there so many FBI agents embedded in that crowd in the frontlines? Why did Nancy Pelosi decline to have an extra reinforcement of the National Guard to defend the Capitol. The questions need to be asked because we need answers for those political prisoners in the D.C. jail.”

Burril: “Our First Amendment rights were certainly on the best display ever. That wasn’t a dark day in America, that was a bright day in America and I’ll tell you why. They were strong enough to tell those folks that they’re wrong. Every person in this room knows that we cannot elect Donald Trump in this state, Mark Robinson in this state, and Roy Cooper. There is no way in the world.”

Sluder: Activist “John Sullivan was in that crowd. I was there, OK. I protested that fraudulent election. For three solid months I was in D.C. In November I was in Atlanta. In December, I was back in D.C. and because the people were silenced and the people knew it. John Sullivan took the video and sold it to the CNN for $30,000. Why is he not being held in a capital jail in solitary confinement 24 hours? It’s a two-tier system and we need answers.”

Nevarez: “I believe in the rule of law. I believe that it should be applied equally for all people. So as far as the people who commit riots and break things during any other protest, which is their right to do, that is wrong. January 6th was an insurrection, period. So here’s the thing. There were people there. That was their right. I don’t believe they were trying to overthrow the government necessarily. But there were people who did combine their efforts to try to remove a newly elected president.”

For part of the forum, moderator Bill Fishburne asked questions to two candidates at a time.


Give us your opinion of President Trump, and would you invite him to come to the district to support you in this election?

Cawthorn: “When we’re looking at what Donald Trump did, it was incredible. In 2016, I do believe his victory signaled change in American politics. I know it did in my heart. I was so tired of watching presidents like George Bush, who would just sit down and let the mainstream media run roughshod over the American people and never fight back. And, yeah, some of his tweets were a little aggressive, sometimes a little mean. But man, I’ll tell you, Putin was afraid of him. The Saudis would always call Donald Trump back because they didn’t know what he was gonna do. Was he gonna send a Tweet or was he gonna have your best general airstriked by a drone? I will tell you there is a value to being unpredictable. There is a value in people not being able to know what your reaction is going to be. Donald Trump did that in foreign policy, but also his domestic policy was parallel to none. … We had cheap gas. I’m telling you, Donald Trump did a service to this country that no other politician has done in modern history.”

O’Connell: “Donald Trump’s policies were spot on. Donald Trump was not a politician. He was a businessman that went there to drain the swamp. I’m a businessman. And I could do exactly the same thing Donald Trump tried to do — drain the swamp. I’m not part of it. We have to have deterrence now. We do not need boots on the ground. We cannot have our pilots enforcing a no fly zone. But we can certainly support our NATO allies and send a message to Putin that it won’t go any further. I also believe China may now be looking at their best buddy Vlad and saying maybe he’s not so smart. … I think this may be a bad thing for the China-Russia relationship. And China may be thinking twice about buddying up with Russia.”


Closing statements

Cawthorn: “My friends, it is the honor of my life to make the socialists and the central planners behind the green New Deal fear the American resurgence that’s coming in this country. I believe when we take the House that we’re going to put Anthony Fauci in jail. I truly believe that we will work towards a balanced budget. I’m not sure if we’ll get it right away because of the president that we have. But my friends we need to demand an audit of all 50 states, a forensic audit of what happened in 2020 because we do not take what happened in 2020. Election integrity is the number one issue on the board … Please send me back to Washington to finish the job. It’s my honor to fight for you.”


O’Connell: “I’m a nonpolitician, never wanted to do what I’m doing. I’m doing it for you. I’m gonna term-limit myself. I want to fight for term limits. I don’t want the money. I’m not taking the salary. It’s going to law enforcement, veterans, children every year I’m in Congress. I’m the guy that’s going to ask the questions and not be pushed around because I have nothing to lose and nothing to fear. I’m going there for you. I’ve done it before. I’ve stood up to the federal government. I did it in 2013. It’s not that hard if you have guts. I’ve got guts and I can fight for you. Send a nonpolitician, a business person like Trump and someone with nothing but common sense that wants to go for the right reason.”


Nevarez: “I am the candidate for all people of the district. I believe in no lies and putting our best foot forward. There are no lies on my resume. I have the experience and I have the education to go in and do the work for the people. I honor this nation, I honor this district and I am honored if you would vote for me on May 17. But I will tell you, I will make sure that I keep honor over hostility. You have to ask yourself, why is it that people get so angry over certain things? And there’s some underlying issue there, right? We have to focus on ideas and debate them and not just say no and not listen. We have to have relationships in order to build a better country.”


Woodhouse: “I am going to tell you who I’m not in this race. I’m not the Washington, D.C., Instagram politician. And I’m not the centrist Raleigh establishment politician who hired Richard Burr’s consultant to run his campaign. I am a patriot who literally answered the call when Congressman Cawthorn left this district for Charlotte and asked me to step in and run and people across this district and across this room did the same thing and said to me, ‘Michelle, you’re the only one who can go up there and fight against AOC and you’re the only one who can beat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.’ This is about who on this stage is the person who can come out and beat the socialist that they are going to run on the Democratic side, who has $2 million in George Soros money. This seat is in jeopardy. This seat is not safe when Congressman Cawthorn left and came back and the front page articles about him have put this seat in jeopardy. We have to make sure that we have a bold, strong conservative woman to go toe to toe with Jasmine in November.”


Burril: “I am from this district. I was raised in Buncombe County. I have voted in this district since 1978 on a Republican ticket. I have not missed a single vote since 1991 when I started my business in downtown Asheville. I am your conservative, Christian, businessman candidate. My wife and I are members at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, where we play in the orchestra. We are local folks who are also committed to this district. Everything I’ve done for this district, I’ve done it out of my heart and I’ve never taken a paycheck for anything that I’ve done, whether that’s been bringing these businesses here to Western North Carolina or if that’s serving as the chairman of your Airport Authority, giving you great nonstop service all around this country. Folks, it’s time that we have better representation in Washington. It’s time for you to have a better congressman.”


Sluder: “The scripture says that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places. It also says that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God for the pulling down strongholds and the casting down of arguments. And listen, if you don’t understand the genesis or the ideological center of a Marxist, a socialist, an environmental activist who’s an evolutionist, or atheists — you cannot confront them if you don’t understand where they come from. And if you do not understand what the answer to that is you cannot confront them. You have to know the technicalities of the matter. It has been my honor to have walked with thousands and thousands and thousands of people in the last 30 years through the hardest places of their lives while simultaneously working to protect them from bureaucratic overreach.”


Honeycutt: “My God, my country, my commitment to my family. It’s been 32 years since we’ve had a veteran in this seat. Sixteen of the last 21 have had service to our country. I want a candidate with experience to make decisions on our national treasure — our sons and daughters. I’ve got more federal experience than every candidate on this stage combined. I can look whoever the Democrat person is that wins in the eye and tell him I will not let you tear down my district the way you tore down Buncombe County and Asheville, North Carolina.”


Edwards: “This afternoon I started my comments, saying the reason that I want to go to Congress is because I’m tired of grandstanding and I’m tired of talk in Washington, D.C. It’s time for action. Chuck Edwards is a successful business person. He loves his country. He is conservative, conservatively principled, and has a proven track record. Does that sound like anybody that you know. In 2016, did we not send a successful business person, someone who loves this country, someone that has conservative principles and someone with a proven track record to the White House? I’m the only person on this stage that can say that they’ve cut taxes, outlawed sanctuary cities, actually balanced a budget, passed election reform, protected the Second Amendment from the Senate floor and took action to defund cities that defund police. I have a proven track record.”