Since the day he was sworn in as the country’s youngest congressperson, Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn has attracted controversy. From speaking to the crowd that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, to alleging that Washington insiders had invited him to orgies and engaged in cocaine use, Western North Carolina’s representative has rarely left the national spotlight over the past two years.
That attention has tightened on WNC. Although Cawthorn had declared his plans last year to run in a new congressional district slightly to the southeast, he returned to N.C. 11 after different district maps were finalized by the state’s courts in March. Seven other candidates are now attempting to dislodge the incumbent through the Republican primary.
The only challenger to have held elected office is state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who currently represents Henderson, Transylvania and eastern Buncombe counties. Although Edwards did not respond to repeated requests to participate in the Xpress voter guide, he touted his track record at passing conservative legislation during an April 11 debate at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher.
Approaching the race from a business perspective are Matthew Burril, a financial adviser from Fletcher, and Bruce O’Connell of Candler, who owns the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Candidates with military experience include former Army Col. Rod Honeycutt of Alexander and Asheville Navy vet Wendy Nevarez. The latter has shown bipartisan appeal, having been endorsed by the American Muckrakers political action committee aligned with former Democratic NC 11 nominee Moe Davis.
And while Cawthorn has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, other candidates in the race have been echoing Trump’s positions. Both social worker Kristie Sluder and former N.C. 11 Republican Chair Michele Woodhouse have focused on Mexican border security and said Democratic leaders are destroying traditional American values.
The name of each candidate is linked to their responses in the post:
- Matthew Burril
- Madison Cawthorn
- Chuck Edwards
- Rod Honeycutt
- Wendy Nevarez
- Bruce O’Connell
- Kristie Sluder
- Michele Woodhouse
Occupation: Financial adviser
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Thousands of conservative, Christian, working people ready for mature, responsible congressional representation
Amount of money raised: $445,000
Top three donors: See FEC report
Why are you running for Congress? To continue my 30-plus years of service to the people of Western North Carolina and bring the resources of the federal government back to our western counties. It’s time for better representation in Washington that is solely focused on the people and economy of this district. Our congressional seat is too valuable to be wasted on building one person’s career while neglecting the needs of our district.
What do your experience and background bring to the table that your primary opponents lack? 36 years as a financial adviser to WNC families and business owners, the Buncombe County Economic Development Authority, chair of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority, trustee of Montreat College and Buncombe County Young Life Ministries. I have promoted WNC and helped recruit thousands of jobs to this district by donating my time to these well-run organizations, simply to make WNC better for over 30 years.
What are the top three issues facing residents of Western North Carolina? 1) Inflation. 2) Access to high-speed broadband. 3) Joe Biden’s destruction of America and his negative influence on their daily lives.
What one national issue would you prioritize through your work in the House? Immediately getting our share of the $7 trillion available from COVID-era federal funding. We need funding for broadband, roads, technical school education, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, a payment in lieu of taxes increase and federal grant writing programs to help our rural counties get access to this enormous amount of money available. Otherwise we will be stuck for generations with making the interest payments on investments made in other parts of the country.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? Even the Democrats are stunned at how bad the Biden administration is.
Edwards did not respond to repeated requests for participation.
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Former Sheriff Van Duncan, Buncombe County; former Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed, Haywood County; former Sheriff George Erwin, Henderson County; Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun, Buncombe County; Madison County Commissioner Matthew Wechtel
Amount of money raised: $21,000
Top three donors: Marilyn Gordon, Robert Powers, Charles McGrady
Why are you running for Congress? Born and raised in WNC, I served from private to colonel throughout a 37-year Army career, where I helped solve some of the world’s toughest problems. I’m married and raised my three boys here. Our district has the highest home-school population in the state and no school choice to give them. Our district has firefighters working for 30 years with no state retirement. Our district has been forgotten about for too long. I can fight for you and your families.
What do your experience and background bring to the table that your primary opponents lack? More federal experience than the rest of the candidates combined. Combat veteran advising Congress on national defense. Supply chain management experience in national and international transportation. I have talked to district folks at churches, gun shops, restaurants, tire shops, machine shops, rodeos, block parties, parades, conventions, high schools, honor ceremonies, small-business lunches, funerals, radio stations, Little League games and more. I’ve built my plans with the people’s input, and I’m going to Congress to solve our problems.
What are the top three issues facing residents of Western North Carolina? 1) Rising inflation on consumer goods (fuel, feed, fertilizer, food). 2) Supply chain problems. 3) Constituent services. I will leverage military experience to strategically plan the locations of district offices; emphasize the importance of readiness, staff knowledge and subject matter expertise to meet stakeholders; and keep projects moving forward. I need to be aware of problems in Congress and will schedule to meet folks in person here to update them about what’s happening on the Hill.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? Joining the 58-member Problem Solvers Caucus. This caucus is the most successful bipartisan effort to find common ground on many key issues. I’m going to work with like-minded representatives on similar issues: Dairy Caucus, Beef Caucus, Crop Insurance Caucus, Rural Caucus, 4-H Caucus. I have the most experience, knowledge and required security clearance to get a seat at the table to help effectively cut the U.S. Department of Defense Budget ($715B in 2022) without impact to military readiness.
Occupation: Full-time campaigner, mom, wife; previously worked for the Social Security Administration.
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Country First, Fire Madison Cawthorn PAC, Sentinel PAC
Amount of money raised: $21,000
Top three donors: Adam Kinzinger, Eastern Band of Cherokee, David and Lisa Savage.
Why are you running for Congress? My campaign is based on three principles: truth, honor and service. Our current representative and party leadership have a big issue with truth. Without the truth, there is no foundation. By telling and seeking the truth, I will bring honor and service back to the district. Constituent services is a top priority of mine. WNC has the most veterans in North Carolina, and as a Navy vet, we deserve the best treatment. I believe everyone, regardless of party, deserves representation.
What do your experience and background bring to the table that your primary opponents lack? I understand the daily struggles because I live them. I am a mother who is trying to raise her children here and have them stay close to home. I am a substitute teacher who sees students struggling. If you want a multimillionaire, vote Chuck Edwards; if you want someone from Raleigh who has lived here under two years and tried to steal the seat, vote Michele Woodhouse. If you want a veteran who wants to serve all, vote Wendy Nevarez May 17.
What are the top three issues facing residents of Western North Carolina? 1) Housing. We have corporations competing with everyday people for housing; they are buying up homes and creating scarcity in the market. Enough with the endless apartment complexes — we need condos, mixed-use developments and sustainable housing. 2) Health care. We must work toward lowering the cost of care, getting providers to rural areas, and ensuring children and our elders don’t pay a dime for care. 3) Broadband. Broadband is a utility! We need a mix of fiber, wireless connectivity and satellite.
What one national issue would you prioritize through your work in the House? Budget. We cannot spend uncontrollably. Our national debt is a national security issue. We must think about the next generation every year as we balance the budget. Continuing resolutions are a tool used to manipulate the budget process and should end.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? Energy. I hear people say, “Drill baby drill.” I say, “Big Oil, use the 9,000 permits you already have.” Prices are artificially high for energy. Guess what — Wall Street and Big Oil are bringing in record profits! I am a big advocate for renewables such as solar, wind, hydro and next-generation nuclear. There is nothing more secure or stable than to produce energy right here in WNC. It means resiliency, jobs and security. It’s literally a win, win, win.
Occupation: Hotelman, Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Previous candidacy or offices held: Not a one!
Key endorsements: My employees – past and present, my advisers, my vendors, my family and friends.
Amount of money raised: Not near enough, but I am willing to put skin in the game.
Top three donors: Myself, my old friends, my new friends.
Why are you running for Congress? My son left the military after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He took a high-paying job in cybersecurity. I was proud of him. A year later, he called me to say that he was offered a position in the Trump Pentagon at half the pay as undersecretary for cybersecurity. I asked him why he would do that. His answer: “It’s the mission, Dad.” I am running for Congress because “it is the mission.”
What do your experience and background bring to the table that your primary opponents lack? I have never been nor wanted to be a politician. My political experience is that I have voted for decades. I do have over 40 years owning and operating the Pisgah Inn under a federal contract in WNC. I have firsthand knowledge of government dysfunction, lack of common sense and overreach. A successful legal battle in 2013 against a federal government order forcing a hundred of my employees out of work taught me that one person can make a difference.
What are the top three issues facing residents of Western North Carolina? 1) Economic issues, including wages, affordable housing and inflation. I think we need to be energy independent for our national security, as well as for economic reasons. Energy affects everything in the economy. 2) Education issues, including parental rights over what is being taught and how it’s being taught. The state is not a good parent. 3) Quality-of life-issues, including the drug problem, crime, homelessness and the loss of common sense in how government works.
What one national issue would you prioritize through your work in the House? Bringing America back — including energy independence, secure borders and quality fundamental education (reading, writing, math, science and history).
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? I find common ground with Democrats on concern for the environment. I work in a national park. I know the value of taking care of the No. 1 thing that brings people to this area. We should do all we can to preserve our resources but not strangle ourselves in the process. I also find common ground with the libertarian concept of limited government. I would rather be free to fail than be guaranteed a life of security in chains.
Occupation: Crisis counselor, treatment specialist, bureaucratic systems reform advocate, program developer.
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Concerned Citizens Network
Amount of money raised: Under $5,000
Top three donors: Sluder for Congress
Why are you running for Congress? To ensure that power in American government rests squarely in hands of common people, not special interests. To restrain bureaucratic overreach and preserve constitutional rights, responsibilities and liberties. To strengthen the nuclear family, protect parental rights, expand the middle class, reduce poverty and expand economic opportunities. To secure our borders, strengthen our national sovereignty and affirm our Judeo-Christian identity. To reestablish energy independence, obtain fiscal stability, reduce inflation and revamp our wholly inadequate immigration system.
What do your experience and background bring to the table that your primary opponents lack? I am the only candidate who has specialized training and decades of experience working to help individuals, families and communities in crisis while simultaneously protecting them against systemic overreach and abuse of power, specifically by the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, Guardian Ad Litem Program and Family Court System.
What are the top three issues facing residents of Western North Carolina? The cost of housing compounded by inflation, low wages, high taxes and the free flow of drugs across our southern border.
What one national issue would you prioritize through your work in the House? America is experiencing crises on multiple fronts. I don’t think it’s possible to have one priority. However, we must stabilize our economy and properly manage our fiscal responsibilities. We must get inflation under control and resolve supply chain, labor and production-related issues.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? Assistance with the cost of health care, education and environmental stewardship programming.
Occupation: Founder and owner of Purple Door Aesthetics, a boutique aesthetic medical business consulting firm
Previous candidacy or offices held: Did not respond
Key endorsements: Todd Starnes, Steve Noble, N.C. Grassroots Government, R.O.A.R. and Chris Hughes
Amount of money raised: We do not disclose this prior to FEC reporting.
Top three donors: We do not disclose this prior to FEC reporting.
Why are you running for Congress? To stop Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi from turning America into a European socialist country. I am running because N.C. 11 deserves an America First member of Congress who will work tirelessly in service to them — a member of Congress they can be proud of that will never abandon them. I am running because we need an America First patriot, not another broken-promises or establishment politician.
What do your experience and background bring to the table that your primary opponents lack? My family goes back hundreds of years in these mountains. I have more loyalty to and familiarity with the people of WNC. I have over 30 years within corporate America and am an entrepreneur. I have spent the last 25-plus years as a volunteer and activist within the Republican Party. I was most recently elected NC11 GOP district chair. No other candidate in this race has contributed more to the conservative and pro-life movement.
What are the top three issues facing residents of Western North Carolina? The leftist destruction of our religious and patriotic values and freedoms. The complete and total failure of Biden’s presidency, which has opened our southern border to illegal immigrants and human trafficking and given complete control over to the Mexican drug cartel. Complete and total national and foreign policy failures. Disastrous economic and energy policies that have led to 30-year-high inflation, dependence on foreign oil and the decline of the U.S. dollar. Biden’s failed policies are crushing families in WNC!
What one national issue would you prioritize through your work in the House? Day 1, we secure and close our Mexican border! The Mexican drug cartels have complete control of our border! They are bringing in fentanyl from China that is killing our children, human trafficking is up over 40%, and there are over 2.5 million illegal immigrants who have crossed our border since Biden moved into the White House. On 1-3-23, this ends!
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? There are plenty of independents and Democrats in WNC who are repulsed by Nancy Pelosi’s drive to ram her woke San Francisco values down our throats. We can work together to make America great. But there is no compromising with the AOC-led squad, because that represents a fundamental battle between extreme socialism and traditional values. We must win a complete victory against these radicals and their evil policies and not apologize for it! We are in spiritual warfare!