RALEIGH, N.C. – A formal challenge of North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn's qualifications to run for Congress, over his involvement in the rally last January that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot, will be delayed while separate redistricting litigation continues, state judges ruled Tuesday.
The three judges presiding over the redistricting trial approved a motion from the State Board of Elections to postpone candidate challenges for now.
Without the formal stay, the elections board would have met Wednesday to create a special panel of county board members to hear the Cawthorn challenge filed on Monday by 11 voters within the 13th Congressional District that was recently drawn. Based on state law, that panel otherwise would have had to make a decision by Feb. 9, the ruling said. Wednesday's meeting is now canceled.
This and other candidate challenges may otherwise need to be duplicated should the redistricting appeals process ultimately lead to the formation of new district maps, the judges wrote. That could mean some candidates can't run for a particular district, or members of a challenge panel aren't qualified to hear a case because a district has been reconfigured.
No date has been set for when the challenge proceedings would resume, but a separate decision Tuesday by the judges upholding legislative and congressional maps told state election officials to resume candidate filing on Feb. 24.
The voters filing the challenge to Cawthorn's candidacy said the first-term Republican can’t run because he fails to comply with a portion of the 14th Amendment. The provision states no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
Cawthorn's office strongly criticized the challenge, saying the voters backed by a national election reform group are “comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th Amendment.”