On Tuesday, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who currently represents Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania counties, is expected to announce his candidacy for the newly configured 14th Congressional District. The new 14th comprises North Carolina’s most western counties.
Edwards has called a press conference for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the old Henderson County Courthouse. Reached by phone late Sunday, Edwards declined to confirm his plans to CJ. He said he wanted to “keep his powder dry” for his Tuesday announcement. However, multiple sources within the district have privately confirmed Edwards’ plans to enter the congressional race.
The new 14th District is similar territory to the current 11th District, represented by Madison Cawthorn. In November, Cawthorn announced that he is switching from his home district to run in the nearby 13th Congressional District, saying that he wanted to block an establishment “go-along-to-get-along” Republican from winning in the 13th.
The 14th Congressional District is rated as a solidly Republican district, and the winner of the GOP primary will likely be the favorite to win the general election. Edwards is the most prominent Republican to enter the race since Cawthorn’s exit. The three counties Edwards currently represents in the state Senate comprise 56% of voters in the new 14th.
In 1977, Edwards began work behind the counter at McDonald’s in Hendersonville to supplement his family’s income. Today, he and his wife own seven McDonald’s franchises in Haywood, Henderson, and Transylvania counties.
He was first elected to the N.C. Senate in 2016 and was re-elected in 2018. In 2020, he defeated Democrat Brian Caskey by 59% to 41%.
Current 11th Congressional GOP District Chair Michele Woodhouse, a close ally of Cawthorn, recently announced she is also running for Congress in the 14th.
“I will proudly be ‘Congresswoman No’; no to the Biden administration’s attempts to destroy our economy. No to mortgaging our children and grandchildren’s future with irresponsible borrowing and spending, no to infrastructure bills that have little to do with infrastructure, no to school boards and progressive teachers indoctrinating our kids, no to defunding the police, no to mandates and government overreach and no to open borders,” said Woodhouse in a report by The Mountaineer.
Edwards will likely be supported by a long list of Republican legislators who have been meeting over the last week to identify which current lawmaker could mount a strong campaign in the 14th. The group settled on Edwards, although not all current legislators in the 14th have closed the door on running their own campaigns.
Cawthorn has not yet endorsed a candidate in the 14th.
“I have every confidence in the world that regardless of where I run, the 14th Congressional District will send a patriotic fighter to D.C.,” Cawthorn said in a recent Twitter post. “But knowing the political realities of the 13th District, I’m afraid that another establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican will prevail there.”
Edwards’ entry into the race could put Cawthorn in an interesting predicament, said Mitch Kokai, John Locke Foundation senior political analyst. When Cawthorn complained about go-along-to-get-along Republicans, political observers interpreted the comment as a shot at N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. Moore had been expected to run for the 13th District seat before Cawthorn’s announcement to pursue that post.
“As a GOP state senator, Edwards likely has a virtually identical voting record to Speaker Moore,” said Kokai. “Does Cawthorn, who is currently represented in the legislature by Edwards, think his own state senator is a ‘patriotic fighter’? Or he would Cawthorn label Edwards ‘another establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican?’ If Cawthorn thinks it is the latter, then what will he do about it? And since he is voluntarily leaving the voters in the 14th District, will they even care what he thinks?”
Editor’s note: Michele Woodhouse is married to the first cousin of Carolina Journal’s Dallas Woodlouse. Dallas Woodhouse is not involved in her campaign.