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Madison Cawthorn, Trump-backed incumbent congressman, loses primary

Analyzing the North Carolina primary elections
Analyzing the North Carolina primary elections 05:01

CBS News projects that Chuck Edwards will win the Republican primary for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, defeating incumbent Rep. Madison Cawthorn. 

Edwards received 29,411 votes to 28,092 for Cawthorn. 

Cawthorn called Edwards to concede by 9:45 p.m. ET, Edwards' campaign said. Cawthorn tweeted a congratulatory message to Edwards and wrote "it's time for the NC-11 GOP to rally behind the Republican ticket to defeat the Democrats' nominee this November." 

In a Zoom call with reporters after the concession, Edwards said his win means that "the people of the mountains were looking for someone to go to Washington D.C. that had a proven conservative track record of getting things done."

He added that his win could also be attributed to a wide primary field and that Cawthorn was nominated through a special primary election with low turnout. 

Sen. Thom Tillis, who was put off by Cawthorn's controversies, also said he had failed to deliver for his district and instead  backed Edwards, though he also said the voters in the district had "several well-qualified candidates to choose from who would be a significant improvement." An affiliated super PAC also funneled in over $1.5 million to help Edwards. 

Former President Trump Holds Rally In North Carolina
Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks before a rally for former U.S. President Donald Trump at The Farm at 95 on April 9, 2022 in Selma, North Carolina. The rally comes about five weeks before North Carolinas primary elections where Trump has thrown his support behind candidates in some key Republican races. Allison Joyce / Getty Images

"Unfortunately, Madison Cawthorn has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives," Tillis said in his endorsement. 

But 26-year-old Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress, had received the coveted backing of former President Donald Trump who in a last-minute statement asked voters to give him "a second chance." 

Cawthorn is a longtime ally of Trump's — he spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention and attended Trump's rally on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse. His activity that day  lead some constituents to try to remove him from the ballot by lawsuit, citing a post-Civil War era rule that prevents insurrectionists from running for office. The lawsuit fell short in state and federal court. 

Cawthorn has been ensnared in a number of other controversies since taking office. This year alone, he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a "thug," he was caught driving with a revoked license, he brought a loaded gun into a Charlotte airport, he received ethics complaints of alleged misconduct toward his staff and he said he had seen Republican members of Congress had invited him to an "orgy."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said the orgy comment had "no evidence" to support it. 

Social media posts of Cawthorn, who is a conservative Baptist, also leaked, including one that appeared to show him naked. He tweeted that in the video, he was being "crass with a friend, trying to be funny."

Trump endorsed Cawthorn in March but repeated his endorsement over the weekend, saying voters should give him a "second chance."

Tillis scoffed at that notion, saying "technically, this is his sixth or seventh chance."

"He hasn't learned from a mistake he's made over the last year," Tillis said. "So, I believe everybody deserves second chances – that's why I voted for a lot of the criminal justice reform bills, but at a certain point, this becomes a pattern of behavior."

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