The 11th district has sat empty since March 2020, when former Republican representative Mark Meadows resigned his seat to serve as chief of staff for President Donald Trump. Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis are first time candidates in a widely watched contest.
Madison Cawthorn, Republican from Hendersonville
Political experience: Madison Cawthorn is a first time candidate and would be one of the youngest representatives ever elected to Congress if he wins. He has worked as a staff assistant for Rep. Mark Meadows.
Education/Personal: Cawthorn was born in Asheville and raised in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He was nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy by Rep. Meadows, but had not been accepted when a car crash left him partially paralyzed in 2014. [Cawthorn has been criticized for a three-year-old photo of himself at the Eagle’s Nest, a Nazi retreat. He has since denounced white supremacy during a debate in September, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.]
Campaign contributions: As of June 30, 2020, Cawthorn had raised $802,641, spent $638,301 and had $164,340 still available, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Moe Davis, Democrat from Shelby
Political experience: This is Davis’ first campaign for an elected office, but he has worked for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. He was fired from this job for writing an opinion piece criticizing the Obama administration’s handling of Guantanamo prosecutions, challenged this dismissal in court and eventually won a settlement.
Education/Personal: Retired Colonel Moe Davis was born and raised in Shelby, North Carolina. He secured a B.A. from Appalachian State and a J.D. from North Carolina Central School of Law. Davis joined the Air Force shortly after graduating from law school and served for 25 years. Davis served as Chief Prosecutor for Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay and Director of the Air Force Judiciary. He has since worked as “a law professor, judge, speaker, writer and national security expert for Congress,” according to his website.
Campaign contributions: As of June 30, 2020, Davis had raised $488,313, spent $220,438 and still has $267,875 according to OpenSecrets.org.
Affordable Care Act
When asked about the ACA, a spokesperson for Cawthorn’s campaign said he wants “to encourage competition by cutting regulations governing health insurance options” in an emailed statement.
According to his website, Cawthorn wants to reform healthcare, as “the rules we’re living under were written in 1943 and need to be updated.” Cawthorn wants to create competition so everyone can have “more choices with better benefits.” At the same time, he says he wants to ensure that all workers can have the same access to healthcare as employees with employer-sponsored plans.
Cawthorn references his own extensive interactions with the healthcare system on his website.
“Patient choice isn’t an option; it’s a right. I know a fair amount about health care because I was paralyzed from the waist down in a serious car accident in 2014. I believe I’m alive today because we don’t have a single-payer system, which invariably rations care, limits choices and lowers quality.”
Davis wants to see a public health care option so that anyone can have affordable healthcare, his communications director said in an emailed statement. His website lays out his motivations for pursuing a public option for healthcare.
“Right now, the per capita cost of healthcare is more than $10,000 per person in America,” his website reads. “That’s in some cases double the cost per person compared to other developed countries, where every citizen has healthcare coverage. We’re paying too much, with some going bankrupt to pay medical bills. And we don’t even have full coverage in America – 1 out of 10 go without healthcare.”
When asked if he wanted to expand or shrink Medicaid in North Carolina, Cawthorn’s campaign said he seeks to eliminate waste.
“Currently, Blue Cross Blue Shield holds essentially a monopoly over health insurance in this district,” the statement from his spokesperson read. “Madison is not in favor of abolishing medicare (sic), but rather will work to streamline and increase benefits by eliminating waste.”
Davis is firmly in favor of Medicaid expansion, citing the more than one million North Carolinians who have no health care.
“Talk about a no brainer,” Davis said in an emailed statement. “It shows no brains that this is an issue. I think the figure is about $4.9 billion dollars a year in money paid in taxes that’s not coming home to North Carolina to make sure folks who need help affording healthcare are able to get it. There are roughly 11 million North Carolinians and over a million of those have no healthcare coverage. With Medicaid expansion, about half of those folks would be eligible for coverage. That includes tens of thousands of people here in the 11th Congressional District.”
Davis cited increasing bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion as a reason the state should pursue Medicaid expansion and the privatization of Mission Health as one barrier to legislators making any moves.
“This is one that could be addressed very quickly if our state legislature would do the right thing rather than make this about politics [not] public health.”
Rural health care funding
When it comes to funding rural health care, Cawthorn said he believes competition will positively affect western North Carolina. He also recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on his district.
“Madison is committed to increasing the quality of care as well as access to care,” his spokesperson said. “By lowering healthcare costs and driving up quality, Madison’s health policies will put WNC residents first and give them access to cutting edge medical care.”
When asked about rural health care funding, Davis responded with several paragraphs outlining the challenges facing his district in western North Carolina. Davis worries about the lack of maternity care in the region, now that Mission Health/ HCA only offers reproductive and maternity care in two hospitals. He also is concerned about the trek many in the district must make to reach Mission Health’s only chemotherapy unit in Asheville.
“It is critical to our economic growth that we have access to healthcare. We can’t attract new businesses and residents if health care is not available,” he said, taking aim at Cawthorn’s plans to increase competition. “My opponent’s solution is to add more for-profit insurance companies. But that won’t do anything for those who have lost their jobs and employer healthcare. And if the ACA is struck down by the Supreme Court, insurance companies will no longer be required to cover people with preexisting conditions. Thousands in western North Carolina could lose their health care coverage.”
In addition to supporting a public option for insurance, Davis hopes to encourage providers to come to his region by offering free education for nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who commit to serving in the district through Western Carolina University.
The opioid crisis in North Carolina
Cawthorn believes the best response to the opioid crisis is locally led with some federal support.
“From a federal level the government ought to work hand in hand with the local government to enable their response to drug usage,” his spokesperson said. “From grant programs for nonprofits to drug education, Madison believes that local governments are best equipped to understand the needs of each community and address this crisis.”
Davis believes addiction should be “treated as a healthcare issue, not a criminal justice issue” and points to the wide systemic issues surrounding addiction, including education, poverty, health care and criminal justice issues.
He also points to the corporate causes of the opioid crisis and suggests prosecuting doctors and pharmaceutical companies that pushed the drugs as a deterrent.
“The opioid crisis was a deliberate decision to put profitability above human life,” his statement reads. “There’s not a whole lot of difference between what’s happened with opioids and your regular drug cartel selling other drugs. It was apparent that the companies knew the addictive properties. They knew they were marketing to people that in many cases didn’t need the product.”
COVID-19 – masks and vaccines
Cawthorn believes COVID-19 “is no hoax” but that individuals should determine their own risk level and their own necessary precautions. His spokesperson said he is “firmly against” a vaccine mandate.
“If you need to wear a mask, if you are in that area of your life where you may have a pre-existing condition or you’re at an age where Covid-19 will greatly affect you, I encourage you, please practice social distancing, please wear a mask and if I’m around you, I will wear a mask myself,” he said in an emailed statement.
Davis believes North Carolinians should follow guidelines like wearing masks and staying distanced, and his communications director said they have followed these directions at campaign events.
Davis opposes a vaccine mandate but says those who choose not to get a vaccine should be restricted.
“I think folks ought to make their own decisions on what to get and what not to get,” he said in an emailed statement. “But I think your individual right doesn’t give you the right to jeopardize public health. So I think government has the right to impose limitations. If you don’t want to get the vaccine, then participation in publicly attended events where your decision could impact the health and well-being of your fellow citizens, I think there is a legitimate government interest in protecting public health.”
Cawthorn is firmly pro-life.
“From a legal perspective,” his website reads, “Roe vs. Wade was based upon the belief that 26-week old babies, who could not survive outside the womb were not human. Current science disagrees even with the most die-hard abortion advocate. Late-term abortions do not protect someone’s rights, rather they strip the most innocent of us from the one right they possess, the right to life.”
Davis believes abortion is a woman’s right, but he supports expanding sex education and access to birth control as methods to lower the abortion rate, according to his website.
“When unintended pregnancies happen, in addition to access to abortion, we should make prenatal care, childcare, nutritional assistance, housing, adoption support, healthcare and education more accessible,” the website reads. “It is unrealistic to expect a woman who may be struggling to support herself day to day to continue an unintended pregnancy when all she can count on going forward is thoughts and prayers.”