In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election, The Macon County News will provide candidate profiles for voters. Candidate profiles always ask the same questions of all candidates vying for a specific office. The series begins with the United States House of Representative District 11 race between Madison Cawthorn and Moe Davis.
1. What it has been like campaigning during a pandemic. What safety protocols are you taking? Do you think it has made this election cycle more difficult?
Madison Cawthorn: “Campaigning during Covid-19 has certainly had its fair share of challenges,” said Cawthorn. “At each event, we urge people to take the precautions they feel are necessary to remain healthy. From social distancing at debates to advocating for higher-risk individuals to use caution, we have respected the threat that Covid-19 poses, but we have not allowed fear to define our campaign. This election cycle has assuredly been more difficult due to Covid-19 and the ramifications of a pandemic.”
Moe Davis: “It has been a challenge since the primary to get out and meet people while following state mandates limiting gatherings to under 10 indoors and 25 outdoors,” said Davis. “We have been strict about following those mandates and have worked to ensure that our events are safe by maintaining smaller crowds, practicing social distancing and wearing masks at public and private events. We have also taken our campaign online with twice-weekly Moe Talks Live Virtual Town Halls to answer voter questions.”
2. You have said that you support law enforcement. Please provide details of policies or programs you would support or implement to support law enforcement across WNC.
Cawthorn: “Advocating for law enforcement shouldn’t be a political position,” said Cawthorn. “These men and women put their lives on the line to protect each and every one of us. The far left has weaponized the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement and turned it into a political tool. I do not support defunding the police; all one has to do is look at the civil unrest and marked uptick in violence this year to see that removing law enforcement is not the solution to the problems America faces. I do support community outreach efforts and common-sense solutions that protect officers and citizens such as body cameras and de-escalation training. Police and law enforcement form the backbone of civilized society. The enforcement of the rule of law is essential in any free republic.”
Davis: “I was criticized by some Democrats for attending the Back the Blue event earlier this summer. But I’ve said many times that when I represent the 11th District, I will represent all of the district, not just one party. During that event, I proposed a GI Bill for law enforcement officers, which would allow them to go to college as a benefit for their service to the community. I also support a reimagining of the role of law enforcement so they are no longer policing issues such as mental health or drug addiction that are better dealt with by health professionals. We can support officers while at the same time supporting those who seek change. This isn’t a zero-sum game, and it is too often portrayed that way by those who seek to divide us for political gain.”
3. List ONE thing that makes you the most qualified candidate for District 11.
Cawthorn: “I am an outsider,” said Cawthorn. “I have no allegiances to Washington or to a political party. My only allegiance is to the people of NC-11. I was born in these mountains and raised by these people. It will be the greatest honor of my life to work solely for them in D.C. My opponent, on the other hand, is not from here. He spent his entire career working in the shadowy halls of government and within the past year moved to NC-11 with the desire to seize this congressional seat. If electing a liberal lawyer would fix the problems that this country faces then we would already have solved them long ago.”
Davis: “Experience. I have a lifetime of experience including 25 years of service to the country in the Air Force where I managed budgets and led personnel,” said Davis. “I was Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, lead investigator for the Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal and Director of the entire Air Force Judiciary. I also worked as a national security specialist for Congress and judge with the U.S. Department of Labor. Through that experience I have become knowledgeable about many of the issues I will face when I am in Congress. And it is that experience that will help me land key committee assignments in Congress on the Armed Services Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee and possibly the Select Committee on Intelligence. Voters need to keep in mind that committee assignments reflect the experience you bring to the office – or lack of experience you bring to it.”
4. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have been vocal regarding their opposition to the Catawba Casino under construction in N.C. What is your stance on the casino and the process in which it was approved by the federal government?
Cawthorn: “I don’t support the Catawbas’ efforts, and I think the Department of the Interior in Washington made a bad decision,” said Cawthorn. “For starters, the EBCI has ancestral ties to the area where the casino is being constructed. Secondly, the Catawbas only applied to take that land because casinos are outlawed in South Carolina. EBCI casinos don’t just help far-Western North Carolina, they are an economic driver across WNC; they employ 4,000 North Carolinians and pump nearly $180 million into the surrounding counties, which helps the entire district. The EBCI is even supporting the economy as far away as Asheville, given their recent sponsorship of the old Asheville Civic Center. EBCI casinos have had to abide by 30 years of Indian gaming law, and now one tribe – the Catawba – are going to get an exemption? That’s not fair.”
Davis: “This is the statement I put out in August in support of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians:
“Colonel Moe Davis (USAF, Ret.), Democratic nominee for Congress in North Carolina’s 11th District, is adding his voice to those opposing a bid by the South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Nation to open a casino in Cleveland County, N.C.
“Col. Davis supports the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ contention that the casino land is on long-held Cherokee territory and believes a casino there would negatively impact Western North Carolina’s economy. He joins Buncombe County Commissioners, who voted 6-1 Tuesday night to oppose the casino in King’s Mountain. The EBCI, who operate two casinos in Western North Carolina, have been fighting for years to protect their territory and prevent the federal government from taking it away to give to the Catawba Indian Nation.
“I look forward to representing every community in the 11th Congressional District in the next Congress and there is no community with deeper ties to Western North Carolina than the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” Col. Davis said. “Harrah’s Cherokee Casino on the Qualla Boundary has been instrumental in the tribe’s efforts to enhance education, healthcare, housing and public safety services, and it plays a major role in the region’s overall economy. Too often, the interests of Western North Carolina are overlooked in the political process. Western North Carolina was already above the national average in poverty before COVID-19 hit and the number of people out of work and who have lost healthcare coverage has grown.
“The Catawba Indian Nation is based in South Carolina, where gaming is not permitted. To allow them to encroach into North Carolina and take gaming revenue away from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians would be a significant blow to Western North Carolina’s already suffering economy. I stand with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and will support them and the interests of Western North Carolina in the 117th Congress.”
5. District 11 is quite large and between responsibilities in DC and the size of the district, it is easy for residents of outlying counties to feel forgotten by their representatives. How do you plan to ensure equal representation for the entire district?
Cawthorn: “Early on in this campaign, I made a promise,” said Cawthorn. “I promised to visit every single county in this district once a month. I promised to sit and listen to the issues that face each community here on a monthly basis, and then I promised to go back to D.C. and to fix those problems. Being in touch with each county’s needs is the highest duty of any congressman. My opponent has promised to be in the district once a year, and frankly, that’s not good enough. I stand by my promise to be in each county once a month, I know what it’s like to feel forgotten and I assure you you will never be forgotten when I am elected.”
Davis: “We are deeply divided, not just by politics but by location. But as I said earlier, when you are the representative of the district, you must represent the entire district, not just one portion of it,” said Davis. “Not just the party that voted for you and not just the counties and towns that voted for you. Let’s start with that. I hope to have a staff that reflects our district, not just one city or county in it. I plan to have an office closer to the far west counties so they don’t have to travel hours to meet and discuss issues of importance. Unlike our predecessor, who rarely made appearances in Western North Carolina and never took questions in an open forum, I have made a promise to visit every county and meet with voters at least once a year.”
6. Hemp is the fastest rising crop in N.C., but the industry is faced with hurdles both on the state and national level. How would you address these roadblocks for farmers across N.C.?
Cawthorn: “For too long big government has gotten in the way of agricultural innovation,” said Cawthorn. “The simple solution is to reduce harmful regulations and put the power of choice back into the hands of farmers across North Carolina. I am a firm believer that free-market economics will always lead to a better, more prosperous marketplace. The federal government shouldn’t be the one deciding which crops a farmer can grow. We have to take the power out of Washington’s hands and place it back in Western North Carolina’s hands. When I am in D.C. I will work to cut regulations and tear down these hurdles that harm our farmers.”
Davis: “The 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp farming opened the doors for a tremendously important crop with real potential for Western North Carolina,” said Davis. “That’s the good news. The rules and regulation surrounding any new product can be daunting. Perhaps because hemp is so closely associated with marijuana, the emphasis on regulating hemp’s products has led to ambiguities and confusion in rules both on a state and federal level. That has made it difficult for farmers. It’s clear we need greater input from the industry to help craft regulations that cut through those ambiguities and make sense for farmers. That would be a start.”
7. PILT funding has always been a monumental topic for the western counties on the national level and something that changes from year to year, making it impossible for school districts to budget. How would you address this?
Cawthorn: “What NC-11 needs is a set PILT number from the federal government; moreover, that number needs to be greater than what it is now,” said Cawthorn. “That land could be making more money for the counties than what the federal government is paying them through PILT and the people of NC-11 deserves fair and equitable restitution for the public lands that so many enjoy. One of the most helpful things would be to amend the PILT Act to set a consistent formula. One year, these counties like Swain and Graham have X amount of dollars coming in, and another they have Y amount of dollars coming in. When I’m in Washington, amending the PILT Act to get a set formula to help these counties will be one of my top priorities. I love these mountains, I was raised in these mountains and when I’m in Washington I will work hard to send the money the people of these mountains deserve back to them.”
Davis: “According to a June 2020 Department of Interior press release, the government took in $13.2 billion in revenue derived from federal land. But only about $515 million was returned to counties as “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” or PILT money – 15 of the 17 counties in Western North Carolina receive PILT money. I would like to see a larger share of the revenue distributed to counties because what they are receiving is not offsetting their loss of tax revenue. I would advocate for five-year guaranteed payments, with dollar figures adjusted after each five-year period so there would be some certainty in funding levels year to year.”
8. Anything else you would like to include and would like for voters to know.
Cawthorn: “This election represents a tipping point in our nation. Every election cycle people declare that it’s the most important election ever, but I truly believe that this time they are right,” said Cawthorn. “Our country is under attack. Our cities burn, our civil servants are under siege, and our very way of life hangs in the balance. America cannot be handed over to a mob, we’ve fought too long, and too hard to protect the freedoms our founders won for us to give them up now. My opponent supports the culture of violence that has seeped into Portland, Kenosha, and Asheville. Five separate times my opponent has called for those who disagree with him to have their necks crushed, five separate times he has implied that to disagree with him and his Antifa allies is to be worthy of punishment and persecution. The choice this election cycle is very clear, it is a choice between violence or values, and I pray we make the right decision.”
Editor’s note: Mr. Davis did not submit an answer to this question. However, his campaign has since submitted a response which follows.
Davis: This election is about making sure everyone has access to healthcare. It’s about expanding broadband internet service to rural areas so we can attract businesses, allow our kids to attend school online during a global pandemic, provide telemedicine as an option and let our veterans access their benefits online. It’s about bringing green jobs and technology to Western North Carolina to grow our economy and protect our environment. It’s about saving the U.S. Postal Service and preserving Social Security and Medicare, and safeguarding our veterans care. This election isn’t about conspiracy theories, bogeymen or AOC. It’s about you.