Cawthorn, Davis clash on night two of ‘Best in the West’ debate

Madison Cawthorn (R) and Moe Davis (D). Courtesy of Smoky Mountain News.

The Saturday, Sept. 5 NC-11 Congressional debate between Democrat Moe Davis and Republican Madison Cawthorn featured words like “liberal lawyer,” “no experience” and “liar.”

The ‘Best in the West’ doubleheader was hosted at Western Carolina University and organized by Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain Xpress and Smoky Mountain News. Night two centered around the topics of rural issues, native American issues and education.

Moderators of the event included WCU political science and public affairs department chair, Christopher Cooper, WCU professor of economics and director of WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise, Edward Lopez and Principal Chief of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Richard Sneed.

Opening Statements

Moe Davis was given the opportunity of speaking first and certainly wasted no time addressing opponent Madison Cawthorn’s alleged falsehoods from the previous evening.

“Some of you contacted me after last night’s event, instead tonight, like you did last night, you were staging a drinking game and said you’re going to take a shot of tequila after every lie my opponent tells and you’re going to chug a beer every time he says [Nancy] ‘Pelosi,’ ‘A.O.C.’ [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] or ‘waterboarding,’ but I beg you, please be responsible. Be safe. Don’t do it. You can’t take it.”

Cawthorn took a different approach for his opening statement and mentioned what he wants to be known for if elected.

“I’m going to go into Washington D.C. to not represent either party but to get rid of the two-party system, to get rid of career politicians, to make Congress work for us again. It’s what I want to make the cornerstone of my entire tenure in Congress about is that I got term limits passed,” Cawthorn said.

Rural Broadband

The debate started with the moderators’ question on broadband in Western North Carolina.

Davis mentioned that during the times of COVID-19, students may have free laptops because of the school system. However, without broadband, the laptop is just a “big paperweight.”

Cawthorn agreed with Davis on the matter and said he spoke to a mother in McDowell County who would have to come home from work early to pick her children up to go sit outside of McDonald’s.

Domestic Violence/Cawthorn Allegations

Cawthorn. Courtesy of Smoky Mountain News.

Chief Sneed asked the candidates if they will support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Woman Act when they go to Washington.

Cawthorn’s answer to domestic violence is more police intervention. To do this, he mentioned several solutions, “whether it’s having more body cameras or having higher pay so that they can have more training so they can handle issues better.”

Davis announced his support of the Violence Against Women Act and the endorsement by the National Organization for Women. He then mentioned Cawthorn’s recent allegations of sexual misconduct.

Cawthorn retorted and claimed what happened was not sexual assault.

“Of course, as a young man, I tried to kiss a few women and it didn’t go the right way. Sometimes my advances failed, but a failed advance is a very long shot away from sexual assault.” He went on the offense after that rebuttal.


Davis. Courtesy of Smoky Mountain News.

Cawthorn, referencing Davis resigning over the use of enhanced interrogation such as waterboarding, challenged the record of Davis as chief prosecutor.

“If you would like to tout your record, I say that is precisely the reason we should not vote for you. We do not need another liberal lawyer who stands up for the rights of terrorists instead of the rights of Americans.”

Davis snapped back and referenced the drinking game mentioned in his opener and said he knows people “slammed one down now” and doubled down on his previous actions.

“I stand on my record and what I did at Guantanamo; it’s out there for you to read and review and I encourage you to do it. I was awarded the Legion of Merit after that, so I stand on what I did.”


Lopez asked the candidates if they would consider legislation that would increase spending or offer tax breaks in a way that would add to the federal debt.

Davis criticized President Trump’s tax cuts, said it was only great for the rich.

“Where poverty is high and people work for a living, they don’t earn their money off the New York Stock Exchange like my multimillionaire opponent does, so I believe in being fiscally responsible.”

He then said he doesn’t believe in a balanced budget amendment and our fiscal policy should be from the bottom up and in times like these, it’s okay for the government to incur debt.

Cawthorn, who supports a balanced budget amendment, disagreed.

“I believe that my opponent must have gone to school at Hogwarts rather than in Hendersonville because if he believes he can pay down the national debt with his current plan for student loan debt, then he’s living in a magical fantasyland.”

Davis’ plan includes “all student loans to be transferred to the Department of Education and the loan rate will be capped at zero percent interest.”

Davis refuted the claims citing Cawthorn’s educational background.

“My opponent hasn’t had a job or a college education so he knows nothing about college debt. When he did go to school for a brief period of time at Patrick Henry College, which is a very expensive private college, he went and paid cash,” Davis said. “He didn’t have to take out student loans so he knows nothing about paying student loan debt. He also knows nothing about paying a mortgage when he went to college most of us stay in a dorm. Mr. Cawthorn bought a house and paid cash for it because he’s a multimillionaire.”

Cawthorn acknowledged he paid in cash and said he was blessed to have such financial stability.


Davis said he understands the under-representation within the government and believes in equality.

Cawthorn said that as a minority, his car accident six years ago that left him paralyzed taught him much in life, such as grit and character.

“It also taught me empathy. Before my accident, I stood at 6-foot 3-inches and I had a presence when I walked through a crowd. People notice me, but then after I got hurt, I felt invisible.”

Davis responded by quoting Cawthorn’s deposition under oath, where he said he was a maximum of 6-feet 1-inch and how he always makes himself look bigger in stories.

Cawthorn referenced his age at the time and said he has certainly grown since then and that instead of resorting to attacks, they could focus on policy.


Both candidates said they supported free trade, but Cawthorn said he wants it to be fair as well.

Davis also said he has not committed to endorsing or supporting the Green New Deal. According to a Facebook post from Dec. 18, 2019, Davis said he supported it.

Cawthorn said he refuses to take his fiancé to downtown Asheville due to seeing used needles and feces in the streets and blamed Democrat policies for this.

Closing Statements

In closing statements, the candidates wanted to make sure their constituents know where they stand.

“I want to go and I want to fight for our national parks in our National Forest for our veterans who I’m proud to stand with for broadband for education and for good jobs. I’m proud to be a North Carolinian,” Davis said. “I’m proud to be a veteran I stand on my record I’m proud of my integrity and I’ll fight for it and I’ll fight for you.”

“I believe in the American dream. I believe I represent the American dream,” Cawthorn said. “Someone who has faced great adversity has overcome it with a smile and with hope for the future. That’s what we need right now. America is currently on its knees. Let’s let western North Carolina lead it back to its feet.

The next debate will occur on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. It will be moderated by Dr. Bucky Dann at Southwestern Community College.

Students will provide the questions. It will be hosted by The Sylva Herald along with The Mountaineer and One Feather. It will be broadcasted via Facebook, Youtube, local radio and the college’s streaming service.

Watch the full debate below.