ASHEVILLE – The two candidates in a hard-hitting hour-and-a-half debate for the NC’s 11th congressional district said they would work on issues important to everyone, such as broadband internet and health care, but they painted each other as extremists who would not represent the views of Western North Carolina.
Republican Madison Cawthorn of Henderson County and Democrat Moe Davis of Buncombe County’s Riceville community are vying to fill the seat left vacant by Mark Meadows now chief of staff for President Donald Trump.
At the Sept. 4 forum in Biltmore Park, Cawthorn also defended himself against allegations relating to past encounters with women, alleged white supremacist ties and whether he was truthful about his chances of getting into the Naval Academy.
Cawthorn sought to turn former Air Force Colonel Moe Davis’ record as a Guantanamo prosecutor against him saying he defended terrorists and calling him a “pseudo-carpetbagger” and liberal lawyer.
“We are at a critical cross section in our country right now. We are going to make a decision of which way we want to go. Do we want more government or less government and more self control?” said Cawthorn, who is 25 and uses as wheelchair after a car accident left him partially paralyzed.
Davis said he was proud of his record of 30 years serving the country in the military, congressional research service, as a judge for the Labor Department and other areas. He said Cawthorn had a problem with the truth and displayed so many extremist right-wing markers they were difficult to ignore.
“I’m running to make us that proud progressive forward-leaning state that embraces the future and doesn’t run from it. We can do better and that is what I am fighting to do,” Davis said.
North Carolina, seen as a key battleground state, was visited last month by Trump who stopped in the Asheville area and praised Cawthorn. Shortly after that Cawthorn spoke during the Republican National Convention.
The forum was put on by Blue Ridge Public Radio, Smoky Mountain News and Mountain Xpress at Western Carolina University’s Asheville campus.
Cawthorn defends himself
Asked by forum participant Aisha Adams about the allegations against him, including sexual assault, Cawthorn said, “I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life” and that he only attempted to kiss a girl in high school. One woman, Katrina Krulikas, said in 2014 Cawthorn tried to restrain her in his wheelchair against her will and kiss her.
Cawthorn said if he has a daughter he wants her to grow up a world where someone has to ask to touch her.
“I think that would have made my high school experience much less awkward,” he said, adding if he had a son he wanted him to be able to grow up in a world where he would not be called a sexual predator for trying to kiss a girl.
Cawthorn said the Democratic Party and his opponent were trying to assassinate his character because they could not offer policy arguments.
Davis said he did not know any of the women who had accused Cawthorn, but didn’t think they were part of the “liberal mob” and said he had never met House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
He said Cawthorn was trying to deflect blame “which my opponent is quite good at.”
He pointed to Cawthorn’s use of slogans used by some far-right groups and visit to a private border wall and other behaviors that he said raised questions. He also noted Cawthorn’s statements that his car accident stopped him from getting into the Naval Academy though it was found he testified in a civil case that his application had been denied before the accident.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other areas of news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
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