A group of 11 North Carolina voters filed a legal challenge to disqualify Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina, from running for a second term, arguing his involvement in a rally preceding the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on Capitol Hill constitutionally bars him from waging another campaign.
Lawyers for the 11 voters filed the suit to the State Board of Elections, contending that Cawthorn’s comments in the speech shortly preceding the insurrection violate the 14th Amendment, which states in part that no person “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.”
The suit goes on to claim that the mob that stormed the Capitol last year in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the certification of the 2020 presidential race results “amounted to an insurrection.”
“As set forth in our complaint, the publicly available evidence, including Representative Cawthorn’s own statements and reports that he or his office coordinated with the January 6 organizers, establish reasonable suspicion that Representative Cawthorn aided the insurrection, thereby disqualifying him from federal office. We look forward to asking him about his involvement under oath,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech For People.
“Claiming to be fighting a battle for our Constitution, Cawthorn has engaged in blatant acts of insurrection,” added John Wallace, another lawyer who filed the suit. “He must be held accountable for his actions which have threatened our democracy. Wisely, the Constitution provides a remedy for our protection. We seek here the imposition of that remedy.”
Cawthorn, who is running in the newly created 13th Congressional District, is the youngest member of the House at 26 and has established himself as a conservative firebrand since his election in 2020. In a speech the morning of the riot, he accused Democrats of trying to silence conservatives and leveled unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 cycle.
“The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, they do not want you to be heard.”
Cawthorn later voted against certifying Biden’s presidential victory, but he also ultimately signed a letter with other Republican lawmakers congratulating him on the win.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Cawthorn swatted away the latest challenge, saying the suit will not distract the lawmaker.
“Over 245,000 patriots from Western North Carolina elected Congressman Cawthorn to serve them in Washington. A dozen activists who are comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th amendment for political gain will not distract him from that service,” said Luke Ball, the spokesperson for Cawthorn.
Conversations around the 14th Amendment, which was created after the end of the Civil War, have quietly built among Democrats over the prospect of using it to bar former President Trump to run for the White House again in 2024.
Trump remains a chief purveyor of election fraud claims and also spoke at the rally preceding the riot last year, telling the crowd “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”