RALEIGH, N.C. — U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn has conceded in the North Carolina Primary Election, Cawthorn's communications director confirmed to WCNC Charlotte Tuesday night.
With most votes counted, election results in the 11th District Republican primary showed the first-term congressman and pro-Donald Trump firebrand slightly trailing state Sen. Chuck Edwards.
Six other GOP candidates were in the race, which became a test of whether voters would grant Cawthorn another term despite his personal and political stumbles.
Answering reporters’ questions on Tuesday evening with the result still uncertain, Cawthorn said he believed the deficit with Edwards would be eliminated and that he would win without the need for a runoff.
“When you get your back pushed up against the wall, I’ve found that most people in politics, if it’s not politically expedient to them, they’ll turn their back on you in a heartbeat," Cawthorn said Tuesday night. "But no matter what you are facing, when Donald Trump has your back, he has your back to the end.”
However, WCNC Charlotte later learned that Cawthorn had conceded.
Several GOP leaders have turned away from the 26-year-old congressman, with some citing a series of unforced errors, such as calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug” after Russia invaded his country. Cawthorn also infuriated fellow Republicans in Congress when he alleged on a podcast that he had been invited to an orgy in Washington.
Cawthorn has banked on his successful fundraising, social media presence and vocal support for the former president to help him win the 11th Congressional District nomination again.
Edwards, an owner of McDonald's franchises, received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and the state's top GOP legislative leaders. A super PAC allied with Tillis ran ads against Cawthorn, one of which called him a “reckless embarrassment” and ”dishonest disaster.”
The primary was open to Republican and unaffiliated voters. Both Edwards and Cawthorn had received more than 30% of the vote as of Tuesday evening, so a July runoff could be averted if that holds true.
The ultimate winner will take on Democratic and Libertarian nominees in the fall. Six candidates were in Tuesday's Democratic primary.