North Carolina primary: Republican voters test Trump’s endorsements with Cawthorn, Budd

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Polls CLOSE in North Carolina: Republican voters test Trump’s endorsement strength in Madison Cawthorn’s House race and Ted Budd’s bid for Senate

  • Candidates running for political office in North Carolina need just over 30 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff race 
  • The Tar Heel State has already shattered its early voting records for a primary election with nearly 600,000 ballots cast before Tuesday
  • The nation is watching to see whether scandal-plagued Rep. Madison Cawthorn will win his first re-election bid after a litany of faux-pas
  • Meanwhile Trump plucked Rep. Ted Budd out of relative obscurity and pumped life into the lawmaker’s Senate campaign, which he now leads 
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Polling stations for North Carolina’s primary elections have closed as of 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening, with all eyes on scandal-plagued Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s first re-election bid. 

The 26-year-old Republican’s race has proven to be a test of Donald Trump’s endorsement strength, as election watchers wait to see whether the ex-president’s support could push him over the line despite a litany of recent public relations crises.

Meanwhile in the state’s GOP Senate primary, Trump’s endorsement was enough to push relatively little-known lawmaker Rep. Ted Budd to the forefront of the race to replace retiring Senator Richard Burr. 

The Republican member of Congress was leading the pack by double-digits shortly after polls closed, though less than 10 percent of the vote had been counted at the time.

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Budd was polling at 27 percent ahead of his closest competitor as of last week, according to a poll by Emerson College, The Hill and WNCN-TV, after trailing former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory earlier in the race. 

Candidates in North Carolina’s elections need just over a 30 percent share of the vote to avoid a runoff election.

The state has also shattered its previous records for early voting in a primary, with more than 576,000 ballots cast before Election Day. 

Rep. Madison Cawthorn is running for re-election in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District

Rep. Ted Budd is running to replace retiring GOP Senator Richard Burr

Rep. Madison Cawthorn is running for re-election in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District and Rep. Ted Budd is running to replace retiring GOP Senator Richard Burr

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As of last month, Cawthorn was polling at 38 percent in the Tar Heel State’s 11th Congressional District. 

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It’s double-digits above his most significant challenger, state Senator Chuck Edwards, but an 11-point slump from March after grappling with the fallout of multiple scandals. 

Cawthorn has been cited for bringing a handgun in his carry on luggage at the airport twice since being elected to Congress, and has been pulled over by North Carolina highway patrol at least three times.

He earned backlash from members of his own party both in North Carolina and in Congress for claiming on a podcast to have been invited to an orgy where he witnessed senior lawmakers doing cocaine. 

The young firebrand was also criticized for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a ‘thug’ in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and was forced to answer for a video featuring himself naked and simulating a sex act with an unknown person, and one published by DailyMail.com showing the congressman’s male scheduler placing his hand on Cawthorn’s crotch.

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Cawthorn has dismissed the laundry list of faux-pas as ‘blackmail’ in a coordinated ‘drip campaign’ to keep him from winning re-election.

Roughly $1.5 million has been spent outside of North Carolina to keep Cawthorn from victory.

Leading the charge against him is North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, who told NBC earlier on Tuesday: ‘If there’s a runoff, Cawthorn loses.’

‘I believe everybody deserves second chances, that’s why I voted for a lot of the criminal justice reform bills. But at a certain point, this becomes a pattern of behavior,’ Tillis said. 

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