The Congressional race in NC-11 is heating up. Two polls show the race is tight in a district that Republicans hoped to hold easily. Democratic nominee Moe Davis released a poll yesterday showing that he is in a statistical tie with his Republican opponent, Madison Cawthorn. The poll was conducted back in July and shows Cawthorn leading by a thin 42-40 margin. The poll memo notes that the district was redrawn after the redistricting lawsuit and unites Buncombe Country for the first time in a decade. A second poll by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows a five point race. The last time all of Buncombe was combined, Democrat Heath Shuler held the seat.

In addition, Cawthorn has seen a rash of bad news reports in recent days. Questions about his honesty and use of symbols tied to white supremacists have surfaced recently. Cawthorn is running for the seat once held by Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, and won a primary against an opponent backed by Meadows and Trump. But he’s had a bad few days.

Cawthorn starts with a remarkably thin resume. He’s only 25 years old and a college dropout who, in 2019, said his only jobs have been manager of a fast-food restaurant and “staff assistant” in Mark Meadow’s Congressional office. He received a recommendation to the U.S. Naval Academy by Meadows but was rejected.

That’s where some of his problem begins. Cawthorn was in a car accident when he was 18 years old that left him in a wheelchair. During the campaign, he has repeatedly implied that the accident kept him from going to Annapolis but, in reality, he was rejected by the Academy.  The implication makes him look less than honest, despite his boy-next-door looks.

Cawthorn has also been displaying imagery related to white supremacist groups. He named his business, from which he derives no reported income, SPQR, Inc., a Latin abbreviation that has been adopted by white supremacist groups. He also frequently uses a Betsy Ross flag as a backdrop, another symbol adopted by white supremacists. And recently, photos from his Instagram page emerged that showed him visiting Hitler’s home in the Alps, calling it a “bucketlist” trip and referring to it as the “Fuhrer’s vacation home.” Maybe it’s all coincidence but it’s a bad look for a Congressional candidate.

For his part, Moe Davis is a retired Air Force colonel who grew up in Shelby and came back to Asheville after his service. He served as Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo and taught law school at Howard University. He has excited Democrats in western North Carolina. Now, he needs to show that he has campaign that can take advantage of the momentum and win in a tough district.  

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