As the filing period for the 2022 midterm elections draws near, moves are being made on the Republican side of the field that could impact how much competition incumbent Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-Hendersonville, will ultimately face.
First came word from a retired Henderson County Sheriff that he’d endorse retired U.S. Army Col. Rod Honeycutt, one of five candidates – including Cawthorn – seeking the GOP nomination next spring. Erwin is a respected and influential Republican and had previously been a big backer of Cawthorn.
“Last election I made a big mistake and now I am trying to correct my mistake. It was the biggest mistake in my political career. NC11 deserves more than just sound bites and platitudes,” said George Erwin. “We need a servant’s heart that has the interests of ALL in NC11. Not just Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated or Libertarians, but ALL.”
The endorsement, first reported by WPVM on Oct. 1, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Erwin began criticizing Cawthorn on social media and in the press, calling him a “show horse” and questioning his support for law enforcement.
“It’s time to send an adult to Washington that has real experience, real leadership ability and produces real results,” Erwin said in his endorsement of Honeycutt. “I am tired of the hate speech and vitriol and want real results that produce for ALL in NC11.”
Two days later, another Republican candidate announced he was suspending his campaign to further the ultimate goal of removing Cawthorn from Congress.
“With myself and three others challenging Cawthorn in the primary, the vote is split so that he will still probably emerge as the victor,” said Eric Batchelor, a Haywood County Sheriff’s deputy who announced his candidacy in late July. “I have met with two of the three remaining candidates and they understand the consequences of our high numbers as well. I believe one or more of them will do the right thing and suspend their run as well, creating much more favorable odds to beat Cawthorn in the primary.”
Batchelor was wounded in the line of duty back in 2020, and after almost a year of rehab but recently returned to regular duty.
“I am basing my decision on conversations with the other candidates, and seeing that their campaigns are so much further developed than mine,” Batchelor said in an Oct. 3 email. “Things may have been different if I had not tried to keep a full-time job while campaigning, and it is a lesson learned for the future.”
The future, for Batchelor, could involve another run for elected office.
“I have learned a lot and someday when I am ready to hang up my badge, gun, and medical bag, I will look for the right opportunity again,” he said. “I’ll be back.”
On the Democratic side, seven candidates remain in the race.