People mark their ballots at a voting site during primary elections in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, May 17, 2022.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters
Polls closed Tuesday in the North Carolina primary elections, where Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn is hoping to withstand a cascade of negative press to win his party’s nomination for a second term in Congress.
Voters in the state also decided who will compete in one of the handful of races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.
North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd will win the Republican Senate primary in the race to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr, NBC News projected. Budd is backed both by former President Donald Trump and the influential conservative group Club for Growth.
He will face off in the general election against Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who NBC projected would handily clinch the Democratic nomination.
Cawthorn, who is also endorsed by Trump, is one of 13 U.S. House members from North Carolina. His seat, which was previously held by ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, is a safe Republican district. Nevertheless, the first-term lawmaker’s reelection bid became one of the state’s most-watched primary races, thanks to a wide range of scandals and missteps that spurred harsh criticism — even from some Republicans.
The controversies swirling around Cawthorn include: making claims about other lawmakers doing drugs and inviting him to orgies; driving with a revoked license; bringing a loaded handgun to an airport; being eyed by ethics watchdogs over suspicions about possible insider trading related to a meme cryptocurrency; calling Ukraine’s president a “thug” amid an invasion by Russia; and others.
Sen. Thom Tillis, a fellow North Carolina Republican, endorsed state Sen. Chuck Edwards, Cawthorn’s top rival in the GOP primary.
If no candidate wins more than 30% of the vote, the top two will go to a runoff election in July.
Trump defended Cawthorn in a social media post over the weekend.
“Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again,” Trump said of Cawthorn, adding, “Let’s give Madison a second chance!”
Asked by NBC News about Trump’s post, Tillis replied, “Technically, this is the sixth or seventh chance.”
“He hasn’t learned from a mistake he’s made over the last year,” the senator said of Cawthorn.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.