A Personal Primary
I was born and raised in Murphy, North Carolina–the westernmost town in the entire state. This means that I grew up in the depths of North Carolina’s 11th district, a longtime conservative stronghold that houses mostly rural counties and the urban bubble of Asheville. I never thought I would be against someone young running for office–then in 2020 my home district elected Madison Cawthorn to represent us in the U.S. House of Representatives. After years of Rep. Mark Meadows, who left his position to become President Trump’s Chief of Staff, my district made history by having the youngest ever representative–just barely 25 years old–to represent the voice of an area where the average age is almost twice that.
At first glance, I hoped that Cawthorn’s youth would bring openness to bipartisanship and youth-centered policymaking, but instead we were given a representative who has become one of the most radical members of the GOP party. In a world fraught with political extremism, Cawthorn’s actions pushed the line of going too far–yet I still doubted he would be held accountable by his constituents, my home district, in this year’s primary election. Although he’d been ostracized and condemned by GOP party leadership, the odds of being an incumbent candidate for a solidly red electorate meant that Cawthorn’s odds of re-election were incredibly high. History was on his side.
Remarkably, I was proven wrong: You can understand my pleasant surprise when my home district’s conservative voters stood up and rejected Cawthorn’s problematic ideologies and actions during the primary election earlier this year. The loss was not by a landslide, as Cawthorn was second to Chuck Edwards by just 1,300 votes. But still, the people of western North Carolina had corralled together and said enough is enough: Cawthorn was out and would not hold onto power. He was not the representative who would speak for us in Washington.
You may be wondering why as a progressive who chose to vote in Durham County this general election: why do I care so much about the results of a primary election in a district that’s slated to solidly swing Republican on November 8th?
My answer to you: to preserve my personal belief in our democracy. In a political landscape where truth itself is always questioned, politician’s accountability for their actions is almost always irrelevant. Therefore, when justice is served, whether in a primary or general election, it’s something to celebrate and hold onto.
Chloe Decker (PPS ’25) is a Public Policy Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a member of the Polis Student Committee. This piece was submitted as a reflection on the 2022 Midterm Elections. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.