RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina congressman said an effort by voters to block his candidacy by citing a constitutional amendment preventing insurrectionists from serving will fail and is part of a scheme to target “America First patriots” who backed former President Donald Trump.
First-term GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn is the subject of a candidacy challenge filed this week by a group of 11 voters living in the western North Carolina district he intends to run in this year.
“It’s just a political tactic,” Cawthorn told Fox News. “I don’t believe it has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually accomplishing its task.”
The challenge cited his participation in a rally last January in Washington that questioned the presidential election outcome and preceded the Capitol riot. Cawthorn later voted against election results that certified Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
The 14th Amendment says no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
A leader of a national advocacy group called Free Speech for People that helped voters file the challenge told The Associated Press that it would be the first of many challenges against other members of Congress associated with the insurrection.
Cawthorn, whose office quickly condemned the challenge after it was filed for “comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th Amendment” said in the interview conducted on Wednesday that he would work to get it “dismissed very quickly.” A judicial panel delayed the creation of a panel of county election board members that would review the Cawthorn challenge until separate North Carolina redistricting litigation is resolved.
“I think they’re coming for … the American First patriots who were in Congress — the President’s real fighters,” Cawthorn said. “I guess I was the loudest, so they came for me first, but we’re trying to get this shut down so that other members of Congress won’t have to do the same.”
Cawthorn, 26, currently representing the 11th Congressional District, said he stands by his Jan. 6 actions, particularly his objection to the election certifications.
As for those who later entered the Capitol, Cawthorn said he supports fining protesters for trespassing and prosecuting those who committed violence, but “you shouldn’t be treating these people like mass murderers.”
More than 700 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Over 170 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges.