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Shock as Newcomer Beats Trump’s Candidate in Congressional Primaries

Donald Trump

Lynda Bennett, the candidate approved by US President Donald Trump to win a Republican congressional primary in North Carolina has been overtaken by Madison Cawthorn, a political newcomer, to become the party’s nominee in November’s race for the state’s 11th Congressional District.

The motivational speaker and real estate investor turns 25, the minimum age to serve in Congress, in August.

He will face Democratic candidate Moe Davis, a former US Air Force colonel.

Ms Bennett has not yet conceded the race, but the North Carolina Republican Party congratulated Mr Cawthorn on his victory.

The district’s previous representative, Mark Meadows, resigned in March to become the president’s chief of staff.

Mr Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair after being involved in a car accident in 2014, won Tuesday’s vote despite high-level endorsements for his opponent.

“Please let this serve as my Complete and Total Endorsement of a great fighter and ally in North Carolina,” the president wrote of Ms Bennett earlier this month, adding that she would “be a great help to me in DC”.

Mr Meadows had also lent his backing to Ms Bennett.

But it was this support that Mr Cawthorn attacked during the campaign. He criticised his opponent for refusing to take part in debates, saying in one video that he would not “cower behind big-name endorsements”.

Trump’s candidate, who would reach the constitutionally-mandated age of 25 to serve in the House in August, was paralyzed from the abdomen down after a 2014 car accident. He’ll face Democrat Moe Davis, a former military prosecutor, and other party nominees in November. The district is still considered Republican-leaning despite recent boundary changes following litigation.

Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, said Cawthorn had a compelling story and benefited from local Republicans unhappy with details around how Bennett entered the race.
Meadows announced the day before the December filing deadline that he wouldn’t seek reelection. The surprise departure came so late that candidates who had already committed to run for other elected offices were barred from switching.
Some disgruntled GOP activists felt that Meadows concealed his decision from them, while Bennett, a friend of Meadows’ wife, announced her candidacy within a few hours of his announcement.

“The Trump endorsement obviously didn’t play well, and I don’t think that Trump is unpopular in the district,” Cooper said. Rather, he said, the endorsement looked like it was done as a favor to Meadows.

A House Freedom Caucus spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did Bennett’s campaign.

Mr Cawthorn does, however, also support Mr Trump.

North Carolina is due to host the Republican party’s national convention in August, but Mr Trump threatened to move the event if restrictions were placed on attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to BBC, Presidential hopefuls do not become official candidates until each party’s nominations for president and vice-president are announced at their national convention, and so these events are a key part of the election process ahead of nationwide voting on 3 November.


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