’Bloody and more competitive’: North Carolina’s 11th district a race to watch

AVERY COUNTY, N.C. — On paper, the race for the 11th congressional district may not look competitive. President Donald Trump won the district by 17 points in 2016. But like the roads you need to take from Charlotte to get to the district, the race has been filled with twists and turns.

Madison Cawthorn, 25, is the GOP candidate. He will be the youngest person in Congress if elected. His defeat over Lynda Bennett in the primary was considered an upset. He spoke at the Republican National Convention.

The Democratic candidate is Moe Davis. Davis is a retired Air Force colonel and a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay.

The 11th district stretches from Cherokee to Avery County. It includes the solid blue county of Buncombe, home to Asheville, and an area Davis will dominate.

Cawthorn is expected to do very well in his home county of Henderson. Most of the counties in the district are safe Republican or Republican leaning.

But there is one toss up, Jackson County. Home to Western Carolina University, the county voted for President Donald Trump and Governor Roy Cooper in 2016. Jackson County is only one of four counties in NC that had that combination.

“Moe Davis is going to need to win Jackson by a fairly hefty margin to be able to pull this out,” Chris Cooper, a political expert and professor at Western Carolina said. “He cannot win just by winning Buncombe County.”

Cooper describes the 11th district race as “bloody and more competitive than we ever expected and fascinating every day.”

The Cawthorn campaign has been filled with controversies.

Cawthorn was blasted for posting pictures in 2017 at Hitler’s vacation home with a caption referring to Hitler as “the Fuhrer” and saying the trip was on his bucket list.

Women have accused Cawthorn of aggressive sexual behavior, and last week a website set up by the candidate featured a racist attack on an Asheville journalist.

Davis hasn’t minced words in his attacks on Cawthorn but he did have to answer for a tweet he posted in 2019.

“When ncgop extremists go low, we stomp their scrawny pasty necks with our heels and once you hear the sound of a crisp snap you grind your heel hard and twist it slowly for good measure,” Davis tweeted.

Most political experts are giving Cawthorn a slight edge heading into election day but that’s a far cry away from 2016 when President Trump won the district by 17 points.

“You would expect that the Republican would win and romp and that does not appear to be what is happening,” Cooper said.

There aren’t any solid independent polls for the district, according to Cooper. The latest internal poll released by the Davis campaign has the Democrat up slightly but within the margin of error.

A night before the final day of early voting, trick-or-treaters lined the streets of Newland for a town organized costume night. Political signs lined the sidewalks. A Trump 2020 flag flew outside a used car dealership.

“Honestly whoever we get into office, I just pray they’ll do a good job,” Meghan Boatman said while taking her children trick-or-treating.