Rep. Madison Cawthorn is no stranger to controversy.

But now the Republican lawmaker faces a challenge aimed squarely at whether he’s even allowed to run for office.

“We haven’t seen one of these kinds of challenges in about a century,” said Western Carolina University Politics Professor Chris Cooper.


What You Need To Know

11 North Carolina voters filed a candidacy challenge against Cawthorn

They argue Cawthorn can’t run for office because of what he did on Jan. 6, 2021

Group involved with challenge said it will be first of many around the country​​


This week, 11 North Carolina voters filed a candidacy challenge with the State Board of Elections.

They argue Cawthorn's candidacy violates the 14th Amendment, which was ratified shortly after the Civil War and prohibits people engaged in insurrection from serving in Congress. 

“This group is arguing this should apply to Cawthorn because of what he did on Jan. 6 a year ago,” Cooper said.

Cawthorn spoke at the rally in Washington, D.C., supporting then-President Donald Trump, who argued the election was stolen from him. Thousands who attended then proceeded to the U.S. Capitol, where many of them swarmed the building hoping to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the election.

In a statement, Cawthorn spokesperson Luke Ball said “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."



North Carolina voters dispute Cawthorn candidacy over Jan. 6

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N.C. Congressman repeats false claims of ‘rigged’ election, warns of ‘bloodshed’


Cooper said it’s hard to know what happens with the challenge since there is no modern precedent for it.

Either way the group involved with the challenge said this will be the first of many around the country.

This isn’t a claim brought based on the North Carolina constitution but a claim based on the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. And that argument I think will cut across the United States … we might see one in other parts of the country that are at least rumored to be involved in Jan. 6,” Cooper said.

A panel made up of a bipartisan mix of county board members in the 13th District where Cawthorn is running was supposed to be chosen Wednesday 

But because of the litigation regarding the redistricted map, a group of judges said that panel can't be decided until a resolution is reached on the redistricted maps. 

The primary is scheduled for May.

Clarification: This article has been updated to include the North Carolina voters filing the candidacy challenge.