Madison Cawthorn Is No More
And other weird tales from Tuesday's primary contests
Until about five years ago, primary elections were rarely major news events. Oh yes, there was the occasional ballot initiative trying to recriminalize homosexuals, but even those were usually floated during general elections to try to gin up conservative turnout. Well, those days are over: politics are now not just media-driven. They are a product being sold to us to prop up media platforms from the cable news giants to Twitter and Gab.
Nevertheless, yesterday’s primaries in Oregon, Idaho, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania are starting to set the table for the fall. There are some ups, some downs, and one crucial race that has yet to be decided.
Madison Cawthorn? He is no more. His first 17 months as a Congressman from NC-11 went from being appalling to a complete dumpster fire. For those of you who have not been following the story:
A spokesperson for Cawthorn said he conceded the Republican race for his North Carolina congressional seat Tuesday night. The 26-year-old Cawthorn lost after a series of self-imposed scandals, controversies, and gaffes. He was repeatedly pulled over for speeding while driving without a license, twice took a firearm through airport security, faced allegations of sexual misconduct and insider trading, and baselessly accused colleagues of participating in cocaine-fueled orgies, and then there was the weird video of him humping another man.
The weird video of Cawthorn humping his cousin, actually. Although he lost by less than 2 points—he lost. He will be clearing out his office in December. In more normal news, Republican Congressman Ted Budd (NC-13) thumped former governor Pat McCrory and will face off against Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court for that open Senate seat.
Let’s continue with the super-boring state of Kentucky. In yet another quixotic bid to unseat a toxic and powerful Republican in that state, state legislator and grassroots activist Charles Booker won the right to challenge Rand Paul in the general election. You will soon start getting emails from Booker announcing that if you would only give him $5.00, preferably every month, preferably with a top to cover administrative expenses—could you make that $25?—he could defeat incumbent Rand Paul. It’s not true. Booker trailed Paul by 16 points in a January poll: 22% of Democrats even said they would vote for Paul.
And if that isn’t bad enough? Booker’s claim to fame is that he almost beat Amy McGrath in the 2020 Democratic Senate primary! Yes, that Amy McGrath—who went on to lose to Mitch McConnell by 20 points. As Trump carried 61% of the vote in that state.
Next up? Idaho—or as they used to holler at the national political conventions, “the greaaaaate staaaaaaaate of Idaho!” In a win for what passes for normal in a party taken over by its right wing, Republican governor Brad Little bested his batshit-crazy, Trump-endorsed Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin. McGeachin, spotted on the state house steps before the 2020 election throwing white power signs with a couple of militia members, became briefly famous for lifting Covid-19 measures while Little was out of state on business. McGeachin’s policy page on her website featured a handgun sitting on an open Bible. “Idaho needs an education system that prepares young people to live productive lives,” she vowed on a page dedicated to her conservative values, “not one that indoctrinates them in Marxist, socialist ideology.”
As someone who has spent a lot of time in Idaho, a left-wing curriculum is not a problem. Believe me. And here’s the other takeaway: if you are too far right for Idaho, you are too far right.
In other western news, five rural counties in eastern Oregon voted to secede from their own state and join a “Greater Idaho.” This would not only make Idaho a super-odd shape (imagine Idaho with a little tumor jutting off to the west of its panhandle) but is easier voted on than done. “Lawmakers in Oregon and Idaho would have to add bills to remake the boundaries of the state,” Herb Scribner of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News writes. “They’d also have to get enough votes to make sure a governor veto doesn’t happen, either. If that works out, then Congress would still need to approve the deal.”
The backstory: while there are undoubtedly other Trumpy issues at stake, secessionism started during the 2020 Covid-19 restrictions. Oregon had them, and Idaho basically did not, with the result that Covid deaths in that state are 20% higher than the national average per 100,000. Enough said.
Finally, Jo Rae Perkins jumped out of a pack of seven candidates to win the right to oppose Democratic incumbent Ron Wyden, who has been in Washington since 1981 and in the Senate since 1996. Two things other than Wyden’s longevity say Perkins is doomed. First, Trump did not endorse anyone in this race. Second, Jo Rae, who was present at the January 6 insurrection, leads out her principles for governance with this promise: “Before I vote on a bill, my team and I will read it.”
And the state you have been waiting for: Pennsylvania! You are going to have to keep waiting. Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman cruised to a win for the open Senate seat there—but who will be his opponent? The Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz has a slim, .1% lead over hedge funder David McCormick, but the Pennsylvania Secretary of State says there won’t be a final result until…..Friday. Will the loser concede?
Tune in here next week for a special report on Pennsylvania—which may be shaping up as one of the bright lights for Democrats in November.
Tweet of the day:
Could the midterms get worse for Democrats? Why, yes! Shortly before noon today, former New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio tweeted (as one does) that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for the new NY-10 congressional district. The old NY-10 (a smidge of Brooklyn and much of Manhattan’s West Side) is currently served by veteran congressman Jerry Nadler, who will now run in NY-12. “Our nation needs help as democracy is threatened and working people struggle,” the former Hizzoner pledges. “I am ready to serve to continue the fight against inequality.” But who will vote for him? In October 2021, DiBlasio had an approval rating of 25%. There are no do-over’s in New YOrk politics. (May 18, 2022)
In 1993, Poland banned abortions, with exceptions for victims of rape or incest, fetal conditions, and saving the patient's life. But a European abortion support network helps Polish women make their own reproductive decisions: the rewards and risks are an important example of what the post-Roe United States could look like. And as Anna Louie Sussman writes for The New Yorker, “There are still people Abortion Without Borders can’t reach—those who can’t get away from abusive partners, say, or Poles with little access to the internet.” (May 17, 2022)
The standard story is that people of color and the poor will be disproportionately affected by overturning Roe, while women of means (we imagine this category as primarily white) will go on as usual. Not so, says New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister. Changes to all reproductive health care will be “massive and terrifying,” she writes. This includes the ability to access a range of surgeries and contraceptive options, have a miscarriage or travel without being scrutinized by the state and one’s neighbors, or get a timely appointment when local reproductive health care is under pressure from out-of-state folks. “Moreover, resting easy on the idea of a patchwork of safer states assumes Republicans will not find a way to enact a federal legislative ban. For years, I’ve been told that will never happen,” Traister reflects. “For years, I’d also been told that Roe would never fall.” (May 7, 2022)
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