Guantanamo, guns, sexual allegations, health care topics of Cawthorn, Davis debate – News – Hendersonville Times-News

ASHEVILLE – The two candidates in a hard-hitting hour-and-a-half debate for the NC’s 11th Congressional District said they would work on issues important to everyone, such as broadband internet and health care, but they painted each other as extremists who would not represent the views of Western North Carolina.

Republican Madison Cawthorn of Henderson County and Democrat Moe Davis of Buncombe County’s Riceville community are vying to fill the seat left vacant by Mark Meadows, now chief of staff for President Donald Trump.

At several points during the Sept. 4 forum in Biltmore Park, Cawthorn defended himself against allegations relating to past encounters with women, alleged white supremacist ties and whether he was truthful about his chances of getting into the Naval Academy.

Cawthorn sought to turn former Air Force Col. Moe Davis’ record as a Guantanamo prosecutor against him, saying he defended terrorists, and calling him a “pseudo-carpetbagger” and liberal lawyer.

“We are at a critical cross section in our country right now. We are going to make a decision of which way we want to go. Do we want more government or less government and more self control?” said Cawthorn, who is 25 and uses as wheelchair after a car accident left him partially paralyzed.

Davis said he was proud of his record of 30 years serving the country including in the military, the congressional research service and as a judge for the Labor Department. He said Cawthorn had a problem with the truth and displayed so many extremist right-wing markers they were difficult to ignore.

“I’m running to make us that proud progressive forward-leaning state that embraces the future and doesn’t run from it. We can do better, and that is what I am fighting to do,” Davis said.

North Carolina, seen as a key battleground state, was visited last month by Trump, who stopped in the Asheville area and praised Cawthorn. Shortly after that, Cawthorn spoke at the Republican National Convention.

The forum was put on by Blue Ridge Public Radio, Smoky Mountain News and Mountain Xpress at Western Carolina University’s Asheville campus.

Cawthorn defends himself

Asked by Lenoir-Rhyne University Equity and Diversity Institute developer Aisha Adams about the allegations against him, including sexual assault, Cawthorn said, “I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life,” and that he only attempted to kiss a girl in high school. One woman, Katrina Krulikas, said in 2014 Cawthorn tried to restrain her in his wheelchair against her will and kiss her.

Cawthorn said if he has a daughter, he wants her to grow up in a world where people know to explicitly ask before touching her.

“I think that would have made my high school experience much less awkward,” he said, adding if he had a son he wanted him to be able to grow up in a world where he would not be called a sexual predator for trying to kiss someone.

Cawthorn said the Democratic Party and his opponent were trying to assassinate his character because they could not offer policy arguments.

Davis said he did not know any of the women who had accused Cawthorn, but didn’t think they were part of the “liberal mob” and said he had never met House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He said Cawthorn was trying to deflect blame, “which my opponent is quite good at.”

He pointed to Cawthorn’s use of slogans favored by some far-right groups and his visit to a private border wall, Hitler’s Eagles Nest in Germany and other behaviors that he said voters should take into account.

He also noted Cawthorn’s assertion that his car accident stopped him from getting into the Naval Academy, though he testified in a civil case that his application had been denied before the accident.

Cawthorn said he was in no way neo-nazi, pointing to his biracial fiance and CNN’s coverage of the issue in which an extremist expert said he didn’t see much merit to the accusations.

As for the Naval Academy, he said his application had been denied but he contacted then Congressman Meadows “and he said there must have been something wrong with my nomination and he would work on it,” so his acceptance was still possible until his accident.

Guantanamo, Pelosi

Seeking to turn Davis’ military record against him, Cawthorn said the retired colonel had been denied a medal and that Davis represented Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a man Cawthorn said was a terrorist who has been “convicted and put in Guantanamo Bay.”

He also said that even if Davis didn’t know Pelosi, his first vote if elected would be for her as speaker and that she would increase government control and grow deficits.

Davis said Ould Slahi had never been convicted, and “that’s why he went home.” By representing him, he was upholding American ideals about justice, similar to John Adams defending British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, he said. He was denied a medal by a superior officer but was presented the Legion of Merit by a three-star Advocate General when he retired, he said.

Davis defended Democrats’ fiscal record, saying Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had reduced debt and done more to boost the economy than Republican presidents before or after them.

Broadband, health care

Both men agreed that broadband needed to be expanded, with Davis saying there were areas in the district with less than 50{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} access, and that a laptop sent home with a child living in such an area was simply a “paperweight.”

Cawthorn said there are “multiple ways” to expand broadband to all Western North Carolina counties, including tax credits.

Cawthorn said he disagreed with his party on health care and that Republicans spent too much energy trying to stop Obamacare and not enough offering alternatives.

“The problem with health care is that the free market has never been allowed to actually work in it,” he said, making a comparison to pizza restaurants that would be compelled to offer a better product and service because of competition.

Davis said health care needs to be “decoupled” from jobs to free the economy and keep people from being being financially ruined.

“I am for a public option, a government-funded public option where everyone from cradle to grave can go to the doctor if they get sick and won’t go bankrupt.”


Asked about his opposition to making silencers illegal, Cawthorn said the Second Amendment was something he was “very passionate about,” not because he loves guns but because they would allow people to fight a tyrannical government.

Taking silencers off the market would only cause more people to lose their hearing, he said. He accused Davis of wanting to make assault-style rifles illegal, but not wanting to say it because it would hurt his election chances.

Davis said he had owned guns since he was a boy but does support restrictions such as “red flag” laws and a permitting program for assault rifles modeled after North Carolina’s concealed carry program.

But he said that restriction was different than banning assault rifles.

“Look, I agree I would like to have no assault weapons on the street, but I put my policy out there and voters can look at it, and if I don’t keep my word, then fire me in 22 months.”

Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other areas of news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force.