Incoming Representative Offers Constituent Help As Cawthorn Leaves Tumbleweeds

MILLS RIVER, NC - May 17 : Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., greets patrons as they make the way into vote at the Mills River Elementary School polling location for the North Carolina primary election on Tuesday, May 17... MILLS RIVER, NC - May 17 : Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., greets patrons as they make the way into vote at the Mills River Elementary School polling location for the North Carolina primary election on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Mills River, NC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS

The disappearance of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who lost his primary and is on his way out of Congress, has been well documented. 

Both his Washington and North Carolina district offices appear to have been cleaned out. His name was wiped from his Cannon Building office. His staff is reportedly not taking on any new constituent cases, and he’s bought a house in Florida. He’s made heavy use of voting by proxy and was the only sitting member of Congress spotted supporting Donald Trump at his 2024 Mar-a-Lago announcement.

Now, incoming Representative-Elect Chuck Edwards (R), who toppled Cawthorn in a crowded primary field in May, is offering up his current state Senate office for Cawthorn’s constituents. 

“I have always made it a priority to assist constituents when they face difficulty navigating the bureaucracy of a state government agency,” he said in a statement. “I’ve heard from many people, they’re now having difficulty getting their federal office to respond to their needs. My office stands ready to help those who can not get a call returned.”

Edwards’ office was prompted to send out the statement after experiencing an uptick in issues they don’t usually handle, Edwards staffer Heather Millett told TPM.

“We’ve heard reports that NC-11 district offices are closed and phones are not being answered. At the same time, our Raleigh office is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of federal issues being brought to us by constituents,” she said, adding that it was clear constituents needed help “navigating the federal government.” 

Cawthorn’s office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Some amount of preemptive cleaning out and packing up is not unusual for outgoing members of Congress.

“Departing members are required to be cleared out of their D.C. offices by Nov. 30,” Peter Whippy, communications director at the Committee on House Administration, told TPM. “It’s common for them to be out earlier than that.” 

A handbook for members says that after they leave their offices, they’re moved into a cubicle with some basic office equipment. 

“No one expects that he’s gonna stay in his office until term is done,” Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, told TPM.  “But the degree to which he quit working is unusual. He’s the Where’s Waldo of American politics.” 

“The majority of his constituent offices have been closed for months,” he added. 

Cawthorn made clear upon his entry to Congress that he was more interested in showmanship than work-horsing. He famously boasted to his colleagues that he “built his staff around comms rather than legislation.” 

His brief tenure was roiled by a series of scandals, including allegations of sexual assault, his calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug,” repeatedly getting caught trying to bring a gun through airport security and gossiping on a podcast about cocaine-fueled orgies that members of Congress had supposedly invited him to — this last seeming to be the straw that broke his fellow Republicans’ backs. 

Major members of the North Carolina delegation like Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), top members of the state legislature and the North Carolina Republican party flocked to Edwards instead, ending Cawthorn’s reign. 

His most recent activity on his non-official Twitter was to retweet the announcement that Republicans have flipped the House of Representatives, as his office stands empty for his successor to join that majority.

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