Video: Cawthorn, Davis debate Sept. 4

HEAD TO HEAD: Republican Madison Cawthorn, left, and Democrat Moe Davis will debate Sept. 4-5 in two NC-11 candidate forums hosted by Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain Xpress and Smoky Mountain News. Photos courtesy of the candidates

Facebook video stream via Blue Ridge Public Radio

Youtube video via the Moe Davis campaign:

Live blog from Virginia Daffron. Most comments are paraphrased.

7:39 p.m.

Madison Cawthorn completed his opening statement. Appeals to liberals and conservatives. Moe Davis takes the stage. Says he’s a big supporter of media and information access.

7:41 p.m.

Davis outlining the basics of his biography. Now saying redrawing of 11th district lines was critical to his decision to run. “We’re behind in this district” in health care, broadband, other areas. “We can do better.”

7:43 p.m.

Aisha Adams asks first question to Madison Cawthorn: You’ve been accused of sexual assault. What do you say to women, Black and brown people, LGBTQIA people? Faced accusations of being a white nationalist.

Cawthorn: Tried to kiss girls in high school. Categorically deny being a white nationalist. What is it about the Democratic party that makes them want to engage in character assassination? Can’t stand on ambiguity of being character assassins.

7:46 p.m.

Davis response: Proud of endorsements from civil rights good. Wants to clarify: Had nothing to do with the accusations made by young women. They aren’t part of liberal mob. I’m not controlled by Nancy Pelosi. I’m running to represent this district. “I haven’t had to spend one minute explaining that I’m not a Nazi.”

7:48 p.m.

Cawthorn rebuttal: If elected, Davis would vote for Speaker of House. If Democrats continue to have control of this country, “the pen of destiny will be taken from you.”

7:49 p.m.

Pete Kaliner up for next question. Lists many insults Davis has hurled at Cawthorn, Trump and GOP on social media. “Those examples are in contrast to your promise to represent all residents of the 11th district.” Do you think this improves the level of discourse in our politics? To Cawthorn: How do you defend Trump’s rhetoric and attacks on individuals and groups?

7:52 p.m.

Davis lists allegations of white nationalism against Cawthorn, says he referred to his friend by the “n word.”

Cawthorn: At the end of high school, I did refer to my friend in a text by a word that ends in “a.” Davis equated Franklin Graham with a KKK rally. My opponent is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of WNC voters. His policies are as far left as they can be.

7:55 p.m.

Davis rebuttal: Not a fan of Franklin Graham. Has made himself a friend of the richest 1%. I am a firm believer in religious conviction and religious faith.

Cawthorn rebuttal: If Davis were from this district, he’d know how revered the Graham family is. If another liberal lawyer in D.C. is what we need to solve this country’s problems, they would have been solved long ago. Need to defeat career politicians.

7:56 p.m.

Mark Barrett asks: To what extent do you believe that human activity is causing climate change?

Cawthorn: This is one area where I differ from many conservatives. However, the Green New Deal is a joke. Unacceptable level of debt, unsustainable, would not do anything to boost our economy.

7:59 p.m.

Davis: I do believe in climate change. I do believe in science. Fourteen of our 17 counties in this area are above the national average in poverty. Green economy is the best path forward out of that. Has installed solar power at his new house. Green energy also good for national security.

Cawthorn rebuttal: See myself as a green conservative. Want clean air, livable temperatures. Want “all of the above” strategy for green power. Reform rules and policies that delay rollout of new technologies. Have to be able to afford without more debt.

Davis rebuttal: Want to extend tax credits that Republicans are peeling away. Fight for our counties to bring good jobs to WNC that are good for economy and environment.

8:03 p.m.

Aisha Adams: How will you be the congressman for all constituents, not only Democrats?

Davis: When my opponent stood at the Republican National Convention, he left out the word “indivisible.” We need to be indivisible. Talking about broadband access. I’m a disabled veteran, use the VA Hospital. Want to fight to preserve the VA, fight the push to privatize the VA and the Post Office. Those are things everyone needs. We can work across the aisle.

8:06 p.m.

Cawthorn: Want to get rid of the two-party structure that’s tearing us apart. Also support expansion of broadband. Didn’t have time in RNC speech to say everything I would have liked. If I had, I would have told people how great WNC is.

8:08 p.m.

Davis: You told Cory Vaillaincourt of Smoky Mountain News that all Democrats are racist. That’s not uniting people.

Cawthorn: Will serve everyone in WNC by promoting solvency, reducing debt, to give them great infrastructure.

8:10 p.m.

Kaliner: To Cawthorn, what is your view on a national mask mandate? Do you believe COVID-19 is a hoax?

Cawthorn: I know from my fiancee, who’s in health care, that it’s not a hoax. Encourage followers to wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Shows photo of Davis at an Asheville protest without a mask. False binary choice that doesn’t exist. Must make sure have a revivable economy after come out of this once in a century event. Support things like opportunity zones. My opponent stands against those.

8:13 p.m.

Davis addresses Cawthorn’s characterization of him as a carpetbagger. Left this area to serve the country. Unlike Mark Meadows, who was born in France and raised in Florida and never served in the military. Over 200 people in this district have lost their lives to COVID-19. I don’t hold events that don’t follow the guidelines. We’ve got to get past this, we’ve got to get everybody pulling together. The economy is important.

8:15 p.m.

Cawthorn: Here to represent people of WNC. Not endorsed by Meadows. Went to college for one year. Decided I don’t need a degree to accomplish my goals in life. Over 60% of our population nationally don’t have a college degree; higher in this district. Spits in the face of a pipe fitter.

8:16 p.m.

Davis: My opponent wants to call himself James Madison. I didn’t know him, but you’re no James Madison. Need the right experience for the job.

8:17 p.m.

Mark Barrett asks what do you think Congress should do about police violence toward Black Americans?

8:18 p.m.

Davis: I have a background in law enforcement and I support it. Whoever came up with the label “Defund the Police” did a huge disservice. But need to look at what we want law enforcement to be doing.

8:20 p.m.

Cawthorn: We have to treat every person in country with respect. Of course Black Lives Matter. Was disappointed in President’s response to George Floyd’s death. I represent myself as an outsider, as someone who’s going to come in and disrupt the system.

8:22 p.m.

Davis: Serving in law enforcement has a lot in common with serving in military. I’d like to see us have something akin to the GI Bill for first responders and law enforcement. You don’t do it to get rich. In the military have to get rid of folks who don’t live up to standards. Have to do the same with law enforcement.

Cawthorn: Col. Kelly Wheaten wrote in opposition to Davis’ request for a medal. Put self above service. Broke rules. Sued by Congressional Research Service. Moved here only to run for Congress. I see this as a calling.

8:24 p.m.

Aisha Adams to Cawthorn: You say you want to be the face of health care. What do you think needs to be done so that people get the health care they need?

Cawthorn: System has to be reformed. Don’t even know what Republican strategy is for health care. Free market has never been able to work in health care. Blue Cross Blue Shield has virtual monopoly. Don’t have to compete. Want you to have more choices. My opponent wants to introduce a public option. Would make consumer market so small wouldn’t be viable. Then would have a system like Canada.

8:27 p.m.

Davis: Address allegations about military service record. Good thing you didn’t go to Naval Academy because you play fast and loose with the truth. JAG presented me with Legion of Merit when I retired. I sued Congressional Research Service, not the other way around.

I am for a public option. 6 of 10 personal bankruptcies caused by medical debt. Spend the most in the world, huge number of people don’t have coverage. Must decouple health care from employment.

8:29 p.m.

Cawthorn: Was nominated by Naval Academy but had not received my acceptance at the time of my accident. Not guilty of “stolen valor” charge.

Davis: Last week, Maria Bartiromo thanked you for your service and you didn’t respond. Your deposition indicates that you were rejected from Naval Academy. You also had to walk back claims that you were admitted to Harvard.

8:31 p.m.

Pete Kaliner to Davis: What would you to do to reform the modern American health care state?

Davis: education, health care, treatment for substance abuse, broadband.

Cawthorn: When I received notification that I didn’t get in to the Naval Academy, I reached out to Congressman Meadows’ office and he said something must have been wrong in my application and he would work to correct it. I did elaborate that I was accepted to Harvard’s online program.

Our local economy is very dependent on tourist industry. Most of those who work in that industry are paid the minimum wage. If raise minimum wage as my opponent wants to do will be a death blow to local economy.

8:36 p.m.

Davis: My opponent lives off his stock market gains. Most people here live on earned income.

Cawthorn: Davis supports the Green New Deal, which would increase our debt by $51 trillion. America would resemble Greece. Support tax breaks for people, remove regulations to bring employers into area. Bring opportunity. No problem helping the needy but don’t want to fund the lazy.

8:38 p.m.

Mark Barrett asks Cawthorn about his statements opposing controls on silencers and other firearm measures.

Cawthorn: Don’t support 2A because I love guns, but because I love liberty. I want you to be able to protect yourself. I want to die on the hills of giving the pen of destiny to you and allowing you to protect your family. My opponent wants to die on the hill of protecting terrorists.

Davis: I’m a multigun owner. I grew up hunting. I was a bail bondsmen and I carried a gun when I was working. Served 25 years in the military. Not going to take your gun, but support red flag laws and other commonsense gun laws.

Davis goes on to defend his actions related to Guantanamo trials and specific alleged terrorists. Can’t follow all the details, but he says he’s proud of his record and stands by the importance of fair trials, even for accused war criminals, such as the Nuremburg Trials for Nazis.

8:43 p.m.

Davis: I lose sleep over 9/11 victim families who were denied justice because this has become a political issue. It has nothing to do with justice. I would like to have no assault weapons on the streets, but I will stick by my promise to let people keep those weapons if they go through the process.

8:45 p.m.

Cawthorn and Davis begin closing statements.

Cawthorn: The Republican Party is a big-tent party for every creed and race. I didn’t move here to run for Congress. I’m from these mountains. You people raised me. Let me go to Washington to represent you.

8:48 p.m.

Davis: My opponent has a problem with the truth. Don’t send someone as a freshman to Congress who couldn’t make it through freshman year of college. In this country we don’t take people out and shoot them when they are accused of a crime. If Trump says that makes me a loser and a sucker, then I’m proud to be it.

Davis: Cawthorn wants to end welfare because he says it encourages women to have more children. He received Social Security Disability after his accident. Got to get past the pandemic. I haven’t left this district this year. Not off to border fence, to Montana with Trump kids.





At 7:30 p.m., NC-11 congressional candidates Madison Cawthorn (R) and Moe Davis (D) will take the stage at Western Carolina University’s Biltmore Park instructional site for the first of two public debates ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The event is presented by Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain Xpress and Smoky Mountain News.

The first night will feature questions by Aisha Adams, Lenoir-Rhyne University Equity and Diversity Institute developer; Mark Barrett, former Asheville Citizen Times political reporter and current Mountain Xpress contributor; and Pete Kaliner, longtime North Carolina political reporter, radio host and podcaster. Topics will include international, national, state and urban issues.

The second event, to be held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee on Saturday, Sept.5, will include Chris Cooper, WCU political science and public affairs department chair; Edward Lopez, WCU professor of economics and director of WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise; and Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Topics will include rural issues, native issues and education.

Due to venue capacity limits currently in place, events will not be open to the public but will be livestreamed at Follow along below for live updates from Xpress managing editor Virginia Daffron.


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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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10 thoughts on “Video: Cawthorn, Davis debate Sept. 4

    • Virginia Daffron

      You must be on the same wifi I am, because I’m having that trouble, too.

  1. luther blissett

    “If Davis were from this district, he’d know how revered the Graham family is. ”

    Yeah, we know how Ruth Graham wanted to be buried in the mountains — “My final wish is to be buried at The Cove. Under no circumstances am I to be buried in Charlotte, North Carolina.” — and her will was suddenly changed on her deathbed to have her and Billy laid to rest near the animatronic talking cow in Charlotte. We also remember how the C-T carefully avoided talking about Billy’s condition in his later years, even though everybody had a good idea who wrote the statements issued in his name.

    If I’d paid $400,000 to political strategists, I’d be asking for a refund. Or maybe suing them, which is the Cawthorn way.

  2. Natalie Kiefer

    If you did not watch the debate for yourself you should. Mountain Express has obviously slanted their views for Moe Davis by making Moe’s responses personable with “I” and Cawthorn’s responses in personable, short, choppy, and cold sounding. I watched every bit of the debate and not how he sounded or responded. Disappointed in the obvious slant for Moe Davis. Should be a fair shake for both.

    • bsummers

      I think XPress gave Cawthorn more than a fair shake. Honestly, anyone who starts off by saying that the Democratic Party is controlled by a “fringe left element”, when the candidate is desperately-centrist Joe Biden, they’ve already spent their ‘benefit-of-the-doubt’. This is not a serious or honest person, and he isn’t entitled to some sort of special treatment.

      But I understand the desire to ‘work the refs’.

    • Peter Robbins

      I sympathize with the editor’s problem. It’s hard to make a candidate seem personable when he’s not all there.

    • Virginia Daffron

      I’m surprised to hear it strikes you this way because I’ve been fascinated by Cawthorn’s campaign since the race began — as any of my coworkers, family members or friends would tell you. Working in real time, I was very conscious of trying to avoid misrepresenting any of Cawthorn’s statements (or those of Davis, either). Please keep an eye out for our coverage of this evening’s debate and our story (likely available Sunday).

      Thank you for watching and reading!

    • Lou

      “Should be a fair shake for both”? Not sure I agree, since Cawthorne has had several complaints lodged against him for sexual assault and or misogynistic behavior. I am aware of no such complaint about Davis.

  3. NFB

    Cawthorn: “You people raised me.”

    Wow! You mean it takes a village?”

    Damned socialist.

  4. Lou

    Cawthorn: “Want to get rid of the two-party structure that’s tearing us apart.”
    Cawthorn on Twitter upon learning he had beat Davis: “Cry More Lib”. Yeah that’s REAL productive. He’s a punk, plain and simple. Let’s all watch sadly as he pulls a Trump on our beloved Asheville.

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