Group Argues Madison Cawthorn Ineligible for Congress Due to Jan. 6 Rally Participation

A group of North Carolina voters has said they believe that Representative Madison Cawthorn cannot be a congressional candidate due to his ties to the January 6 Capitol riots.

Lawyers representing 11 North Carolina voters filed the candidacy challenge with the State Board of Elections. The challenge claimed that Cawthorn's recent candidacy filing for the state's 13th District seat violates a Constitutional amendment enacted shortly after the Civil War. In this amendment, nobody that has "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the U.S. Constitution is allowed to serve in Congress. The voters claimed that Cawthorn's participation in an election fraud rally that ended up infiltrating the U.S. Capitol makes him ineligible for Congressional reelection.

Cawthorn was a guest speaker at the "Save America Rally," which took place the morning of January 6, 2021. At the rally, Cawthorn said the crowd "has some fight" in them and openly put forth the idea that there was widespread election fraud that ousted former President Donald Trump from office. He also said during the event that Democrats are trying to silence voters, saying that "they do not want you to be heard."

Meanwhile, Cawthorn is fighting back against the challenge. Spokesman Luke Ball said that the group is "comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th amendment for political gain" in an email sent to The Associated Press. However, the group is denying this, with member Jay Walsh saying that the representative's actions "are damaging our country and eroding our freedoms."

Cawthorn First Responders
North Carolina Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn's reelection campaign has been challenged by a group of North Carolina voters that say he should be punished for his ties to the January 6 Capitol riots. Pictured, Cawthorn speaks during a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol on November 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images

The written challenge says the events on January 6, 2021 "amounted to an insurrection" and that Cawthorn's speech at the rally supporting President Donald Trump, his other comments and information in published reports provide a "reasonable suspicion or belief" that he helped facilitate the insurrection and is thus disqualified.

"The importance of defending the bedrock constitutional principle that oath breakers who engage in insurrection cannot be trusted in future office is essential to maintain," Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group backing the challenge election, told The Associated Press.

Fein said the Cawthorn challenge will be the first of many they intend to file against other members of Congress associated with the insurrection in the near future. Free Speech for People and the group Our Revolution announced last week that it would urge state election administrators to bar Trump and members of Congress from appearing on future ballots

State law says Cawthorn has the burden to "show by a preponderance of the evidence" that he's qualified to run.

Ball pointed out that "over 245,000 patriots from western North Carolina elected Congressman Cawthorn to serve them in Washington" — a reference to his November 2020 victory in the current 11th District.

Cawthorn, 26, became the youngest member of Congress after his November 2020 election in the far-western 11th District and has become a social media favorite of Trump supporters. He plans to run in a new congressional district that appears friendlier to Republicans. He formally filed candidacy papers with the State Board of Elections last month, just before filing was suspended while redistricting lawsuits are pending.

The challenge asks the board to create a five-member panel from counties within the proposed 13th District to hear the challenge. The panel's decision can be appealed state board and later to court.

The 11 voters, identified in additional paperwork filed with the board, are from four counties within the new 13th District, which stretches from the state's foothills east to parts of Charlotte.

Cawthorn voted against certifying Biden's presidential victory, although later he signed a letter with other GOP members of Congress congratulating Biden. Cawthorn has said he had a constitutional duty to vote against him. He condemned the Capitol violence, but compared it to the summer 2020 protests over police brutality. Still, last summer Cawthorn warned North Carolinians of potential "bloodshed" over future elections he claims could "continue to be stolen," and questioned whether Biden was "dutifully elected."

The challengers also asked the board to let them question Cawthorn under oath in a deposition before the regional panel convenes, and to subpoena him and others to obtain documents.

"It's easy to deny something on Twitter or in a speech to supporters," Fein said. "But we look forward to questioning him under oath."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cawthorn in Riot Aftermath
Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) (C) wears a protective mask while going to the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Cawthorn, who spoke at the "Save America Rally" on January 6, could have his reelection campaign disrupted due to a Civil War-era amendment. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images