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Zuma/SplashNews.com Rep. Madison Cawthorn
North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn is suing the members of his state Board of Elections, after a group of voters filed a challenge to disqualify him for re-election.
In a complaint filed Monday and published by the The News & Observer, the 26-year-old lawmaker argues that the challenge is overly board and goes against federal law. Cawthorn also argues that the burden of proof is unfairly and unconstitutionally shifted to him to "prove a negative."
The suit comes after anti-Cawthorn voters moved to block Cawthorn's bid for re-election due to what they described as his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots. They cited section three of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits public officials who have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the United States from holding office.
Cawthorn spoke at a rally near the White House helmed by Donald Trump on Jan. 6, hours before supporters of the now-former president stormed the Capitol.
The legal challenge seeking to disqualify him from running for re-election, which is pending, claims that Cawthorn "has a history, leading up to and continuing after his swearing-in as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, of advocating for political violence."
The challenge also notes that Cawthorn has described those who stormed the Capitol as "political hostages"and "political prisoners."
According to the action against Cawthorn, his challengers intend to depose him prior to a hearing and will "request subpoenas for witnesses and documents, including documents that Representative Cawthorn or his staff may possess involving the planning of the January 6 events that could shed light on his qualification for office under Section Three."
Cawthorn, in his suit against the board, claims that the evidence he is being asked to provide is "based upon nothing more than ... 'reasonable suspicion.' "
On Twitter, Cawthorn has called the group challenging his candidacy "left-wing activists," and used the attempts to remove him from the ballot as a fundraising tactic.
The outspoken Republican, who became the youngest member of Congress when he was elected in 2020, has courted controversy since stepping into the political limelight, including for a racist campaign statement seemingly about New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and for his vote to overturn the 2020 election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud. (Cawthorn said that statement was "unclear and unfairly implied I was criticizing Cory Booker.")
Though he was elected to represent North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, Cawthorn recently announced he will run in 2022 for a second term in the state's new 13th district, after the census added a seat to the congressional map and the districts were withdrawn.
In announcing his candidacy in November, Cawthorn said: "I have every confidence in the world that regardless of where I run, the 14th Congressional District will send a patriotic fighter to D.C. But knowing the political realities of the 13th District, I'm afraid that another establishment, 'go along to get along Republican' would prevail there. I will not let that happen. I will be running for Congress in the 13th Congressional District."