Representative Madison Cawthorn Dodges Lawsuit, Can Appear on Ballot

A federal judge ruled against North Carolina voters seeking to disqualify U.S. House Representative Madison Cawthorn from running for re-election in November based on his involvement in rallies and the events that led to the January 6 Capitol riot, the Associated Press reported.

The group that filed the lawsuit said Cawthorn should be ruled ineligible because of a section of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was written after the Civil War to stop former members of the Confederacy from serving in Congress.

The section of the amendment cited in the lawsuit states that no one who has "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the United States can serve in Congress. The voters argued that Cawthorn's support for former President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, his vote against certifying the results of the 2020 election and appearances at rallies that preceded the Capitol riot should qualify as "insurrection" and make him ineligible for office.

"HUGE VICTORY! The left's lawfare tactics have failed. On to re-election!" Cawthorn tweeted following the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Richard Myers issued a preliminary injunction Friday, citing the precedent of an 1872 federal law that removed several of the office-holding restrictions and limited the amendment to only those who served in certain sessions of Congress, the AP reported.

Myers' ruling means that the North Carolina elections board will not be able to review whether Cawthorn will be disqualified from the ballot unless the decision is reversed on appeal.

Free Speech for People, a campaign finance reform group supporting the lawsuit, expressed disappointment in the ruling and stated support for appealing the decision. The group has also said it intended to issue similar challenges against other members of Congress who supported Trump and may have participated in the events leading up to January 6.

"The ruling must be reversed on appeal, and the right of voters to bring this challenge to Cawthorn's eligibility must be preserved," the group's legal director Ron Fein said in a statement.

The statement said that Myers "reached out to block North Carolina's well-established process for verifying candidates' eligibility. Until the decision is overturned on appeal, the state process is on pause, and Madison Cawthorn is temporarily shielded from answering questions about whether his involvement in January 6 disqualifies him under the Fourteenth Amendment."

The challenge to Cawthorn's candidacy was originally filed based on his January filings to run for the seat of the 13th district of North Carolina that had been redrawn by the state in the legislative redistricting process. However, in the months that followed, legal challenges have forced new maps to be created and Cawthorn is now set to run to represent the 11th district, which the AP reported closely reflects the district he currently represents.

Assuming the ruling stands going forward, Cawthorn will be in a primary with seven other Republicans, the winner of which will run against the victor among six Democratic candidates in November, the AP reported.

Update 3/4/22 5:15 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context.

Madison Cawthorn North Carolina January 6 Insurrection
Representative Madison Cawthorn can run for re-election in November, a judge ruled Friday. Above, Cawthorn speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC held at the Hilton Anatole on July 9, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images