Here’s a new one: a group of 11 North Carolina voters who live in four counties that comprise the 13th Congressional District, in which Congressman Madison Cawthorn is running for reelection to Congress, have filed a candidacy challenge to stop that from happening.

Their reasoning?

They say since Cawthorn participated in the Trump rally in Washington, D.C. last January 6 and questioned the results of the presidential election that eventually resulted in the Capitol riots, Cawthorn is ineligible under section three of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to run for Congress because he contributed to inciting an insurrection.

Here’s an exact quote from Cawthorn at the rally, after he told the the crowd that it “has some fight in it:”

“The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice. Make no mistake about it, they do not want you to be heard.”

There’s also evidence that Cawthorn and his staff was in contact with rally organizers behind the scenes.  

The 14th Amendment states that 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.”

Luke Ball, a Cawthorn spokesman told the AP in response to the challenge that “over 245,000 patriots from western North Carolina elected Congressman Cawthorn to serve them in Washington,” referring to Cawthorn’s election win in November of 2020.  

Now “a dozen activists who are comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th Amendment for political gain will not distract him from that service,” Ball wrote in an email.

Here’s what the director of a national, non-partisan elections reform nonprofit that is representing the challengers told the AP:

“The importance of defending the bedrock constitutional principle that oath breakers who engage in insurrection cannot be trusted in future office is essential to maintain,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group backing the challenge.

He told The Associated Press the Cawthorn challenge will be the first of many his group intends to file against other members of Congress associated with the insurrection. Free Speech for People and the group Our Revolution announced last week that it would urge state election administrators to bar Trump and members of Congress from appearing on future ballots

The “leading national precedent” for such cases was created in 1869 by the North Carolina Supreme Court, which described the meaning of “engage” when it comes to a disqualifying act of insurrection or rebellion under the 14th Amendment, the filing states.

State law says Cawthorn has the burden to “show by a preponderance of the evidence” that he’s qualified to run.

North Carolina’s Board of Elections has scheduled a meeting set for Wednesday to create a five-member panel or panels from counties within the proposed 13th District required to hear the challenge. Any ruling from the panel could make its way to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Serving as counsel alongside Free Speech for the people are Robert F. Orr, a former Republican Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and James G. Exum, Jr., a former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

“This challenge is all about enforcing the Constitution of the United States,” said Robert F. Orr in a press release.  “The Constitution mandates that those who take the oath to support the Constitution and then violate that oath shall be disqualified from holding office.”

“The purpose of the constitutional provision relied on by the challengers to Mr. Cawthorn’s candidacy is to prevent persons who sought illegally to overthrow a duly elected government from participating in running that government,” said James G. Exum, Jr.  “The challengers believe the evidence will show Mr. Cawthorn to be one of those persons.”

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