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Had Madison Cawthorn won the Republican nomination to be re-elected to the 11th Congressional District seat he won in 2020 — becoming the youngest member of Congress and an instant magnet for publicity for his flamboyant mini-me Trumpism — this race might have been one of the most closely watched in the nation.

Instead — Cawthorn having been vanquished in the primary by state Sen. Chuck Edwards — it’s a more conventional contest featuring two elected officials with records of service in local and state government.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a Buncombe County commissioner, ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the founding executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE). Beach-Ferrara earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in divinity from Harvard University. She lives in Asheville with her wife, Meghann, their oldest child Cal and twins Lily and Wyatt.

Appointed to the state Senate in 2016, Edwards won election to the seat that year and has won re-election the past two cycles. Born in Haywood County, Edwards moved with his mother — a single mom — into a single-wide trailer in Fletcher. A businessman since he started behind the counter at McDonald’s at age 16, Edwards along with his wife, Teresa, owns six McDonald’s restaurants in Henderson, Transylvania and Haywood counties. A graduate of West Henderson High School, he studied business at Blue Ridge Community College. The couple’s children are Kimberly Edwards and the late Chris Edwards.

Also on the ballot is Libertarian David Adam Coatney, a resident of Fletcher. Coatney did not respond to the Lightning’s invitation to participate in the Voter Guide Q&A.

Why are you running for Congress?


Beach-Ferrara: I’m running for Congress to deliver the leadership that Western North Carolina needs and deserves. The people of WNC deserve someone in Congress who cares about them, gets what’s happening in their lives, and will show up every day to fight for them. This campaign isn’t just about winning an election, it’s about how we all move forward together. 

Why are you running for Congress?


Edwards: I can no longer sit back and watch D.C. elitists make decisions about our futures when they have no understanding of how real mountain-working families live. They are destroying our country and trampling our Constitution. After serving our community my entire life and in the N.C. Senate for the last six years, I have a clear vision, and the proven track record needed to get us back on course. I’ve helped build a fiscally responsible NC with a strong economy while lowering taxes. I have a strong track record of constituent services and helping people solve their problems created bureaucrats.


What priorities do you have if you are elected?


Edwards: Biden has now destroyed the strong economy he inherited. Groceries, gas, medicine — everything — costs more because of the reckless spending and liberal experiments coming out of D.C. I’ve cut government spending, balanced budgets, cut taxes. These are the core principles of running a business and they should be the core principles of running our government. We must unleash the potential of American energy; restore law and order in our communities; cut drug and human trafficking beginning by securing our southern border; support law enforcement, not call for their defunding; empower parents and teachers — not bureaucrats — to make decisions about how our schools operate.

Beach-Ferrara: People in WNC are struggling and my focus is always on how we help working families not just tread water but actually thrive. I support policies that provide immediate relief to families — like reducing prescription drug prices and making sure everyone have access to health care in their hometown; creating jobs that can a support family; universal Pre-K and a strong public education system, including our community colleges; responding to the opioid crisis with compassion and impact; and supporting our farmers. 

The Dobbs case overturning Roe v. Wade has opened the door for restrictions on abortion. As a member of Congress would you support a ban on abortion or further restrictions on abortion?


Beach-Ferrara: I oppose a ban on abortion and I support a federal law codifying Roe v. Wade. I am deeply concerned about the bans being enacted across the country that are so extreme they do not even include exceptions for rape and incest. As a pro-choice pastor, I support a woman’s right to make choices about her body and her health care, in consultation with doctors and those closest to her. I oppose government intrusion into the most private aspects of our lives.

Edwards: I have always stood for the lives of unborn children, and I will always stand for those lives who would otherwise have no voice. The Dobbs decision returns the decisions about abortion limitations back to the states, and I contend that is where the decision should be made. I hope future legislators enact legislation to reduce the abortions we now have in North Carolina.

The last two people elected to represent the N.C. 11th Congressional District became national figures in a highly charged partisan environment. Do you see yourself in that high-profile mold? Why or why not?


Edwards: No. If elected, I want to be known as a congressman wholly focused on the people living in these mountains. When recently speaking at an event I received one of the highest compliments of this campaign when a woman said to me, I sounded like Rep. Charles Taylor. At the conclusion of my term, like Rep. Taylor, I want to be remembered for having done things to help improve the lives of citizens. Besides, I don’t have good enough hair for TV.

Beach-Ferrara: Our last congressman vacated his seat and our current congressman has closed his constituent services offices. The people of WNC deserve a congressperson who will prioritize constituent services and work every day to deliver for constituents. Voters face a clear choice — to continue with a brand of extremist, self-serving politics or to vote for the change and leadership that I bring to this race. I am running to serve all the people of WNC — not just those who vote for me. Representation starts by listening and building tables where we focus on common values and common ground — that’s how we can move forward together. 

How would you rate the job President Biden has done in the White House? Do you believe he should run for re-election?


Beach-Ferrara: People all across WNC are feeling the pressure of living through a global pandemic and a global economic crisis. The Biden administration has worked hard to deliver relief to working families, and the United States is doing better than many other countries in managing inflation. Resources and relief are being delivered to WNC — from expanding broadband, to lowering prescription drug prices, to building new affordable housing, to expanding mental health services and providing much-needed support to public safety agencies. But there is still more work to be done. WNC deserves a representative who will get to work solving problems on day one.

Edwards: The Biden presidency has been a monumental disaster and mountain families are paying the price. Because of Biden’s failed policies, inflation is at record levels, we’re now more dependent than ever on foreign entities for our energy, we are headed for a recession, our border is open, more of our children are dying from drugs, violent crime is up, our law enforcement officers are under attack and the world is a more dangerous place. I hope he will run for re-election because that will help ensure we get a conservative back in the White House.