Prospects for 11th Congressional District fulfill in first disputes – Mountain Xpress

7September 2020

Political scientists frequently declare that debates do not have much result on the outcome of an election, however Chris Cooper, professor of political science at Western Carolina University, begs to vary.

In a race like this, disputes can matter,” Cooper said Sept. 4, minutes prior to Republican Madison Cawthorn of Hendersonville and Democrat Moe Davis of Asheville met for their very first public dispute. “When we’re still forming viewpoints of these candidates and discovering more about who they are, then anytime we can speak with them in their own words, it’s an important minute.”

Demonstrators on South Asheville highways ahead of the occasion had actually already comprised their minds. Veterans backing Davis raised banners and made honks of assistance from motorists along Long Shoals Roadway, while nearly 100 Cawthorn followers rallied outside Western Carolina University’s Biltmore Park training website under the careful eyes of Asheville policeman.

The late summer evening rang with shouts, applause and the roar of unmuffled truck engines outside the occasion location as the Cawthorn crowd waved signs and cheered pickups tracking big flags at the Schenck Parkway roundabout.


“He’s got the grassroots energy,” said Hendersonville citizen Brett Ellison, 52, of Cawthorn. “I believe he’s rather the man. We need young blood up there [in Washington] to clear out some of that mess. So, he needs to go to Congress.”

Tracy Fletcher, 52, of Hendersonville agreed. “Among the things that was very essential to me about Madison is that he has the ability to verbalize what he believes. He’s extremely conservative in his politics. He enjoys America. I believe that’s extremely essential.”

Status quo v. fireworks

Regardless of a court-ordered change to district lines for the 2020 election, Republicans still have the advantage in Western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, Cooper said. “Even with the redrawn lines, about 57% of this district elected Donald Trump. So, I would expect that a status quo night is a good night for Madison Cawthorn, and a night with more fireworks is a much better night for Moe Davis.

“What Davis is going to desire is the ability to land some blows that he can utilize as sound bites which he can utilize to promote his campaign,” Cooper stated. “What Cawthorn’s going to want is a strong, stable performance that does not disrupt too much of the status quo.”

By that standard, the Sept. 4 argument may have benefited Davis, who pursued his opponent over claims that Cawthorn had been dishonest about the result of his bid to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, had sexually forced young women in the years following his recovery from a near-fatal automobile mishap and had utilized a racial slur in a text to a buddy. Cawthorn intensely protected himself and attacked Davis for his record as the lead prosecutor of accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as his support amongst a “fringe left element” that Cawthorn said wishes to deteriorate the country.

In comments published on the Facebook livestream during the dispute, Davis’ attacks appeared to resonate with his fans, who described their candidate as the “just grownup in the room” and someone who “can fix issues, not gush empty words.”

“Cawthorn is a D-student without any education and no experience, not exactly sure why anyone would vote for him,” shared Susan Zitro a couple of minutes into the livestream. Her remark was echoed by Bob Gossett a couple of minutes later. “The majority of prospects operate on their record of civil service,” he wrote. “Madison Cawthorn does not have one.”

The second dispute of the two-part series occurred the following night on Western Carolina’s Cullowhee school. Cawthorn appeared to discover his rhythm in responding to Davis’ obstacles. Both candidates continued to assault one another with gusto, in some cases deserting the compound of panelists’ concerns altogether in favor of delivering zingers. If Davis– described by Cawthorn as a “liberal lawyer” for his career as a military attorney and law professor– expected his 25-year-old villain to wilt under rhetoric honed in the courtroom, he might have been disappointed.

Policy concerns frequently took a backseat to what Cawthorn called “character assassination,” and Davis referred to as Cawthorn’s “issue with the fact,” however the disputes did include some compound. Below, assistant editor Daniel Walton sums up the positions covered during the opening night of the series, and press reporter Molly Horak assemble the bottom lines of the second night.

The arguments were sponsored by Smoky Mountain News, Blue Ridge Public Radio and Mountain Xpressand were streamed live by means of Facebook. Video of the opening night is available at avl.mx/ 877; enjoy the second night at avl.mx/ 878.

— Think piece by Virginia Daffron

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