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The articles from Inside Politics With Steve Harrison appear first in his weekly newsletter, which takes a deeper look at local politics, including the latest news on the Charlotte City Council, what's happening with Mecklenburg County's Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina General Assembly and much more.

If a court orders new map, top Republican predicts retribution against Cawthorn for changing districts

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, talks with reporters prior to the second day of a public hearing on the investigation into 9th Congressional District voting irregularities.
WFAE File Photo
Dallas Woodhouse in 2019 at the Board of Election’s hearing into ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District election.

Dallas Woodhouse is the former executive director of the N.C. Republican Party from 2015 to 2019 and now a commentator for Carolina Journal, a news outlet associated with the conservative John Locke Foundation.

In a story this week, Woodhouse mocked Madison Cawthorn’s decision to run in the newly created 13th Congressional District as opposed to the 14th District in the mountains, where he was elected to this first term in 2020.

The 13th District includes the Lake Norman towns and west Mecklenburg, and then extends west, including Gaston, Cleveland and Rutherford counties. It was drawn to be a lay-up for N.C. House speaker Tim Moore, who is from Cleveland County.

In a video message announcing his decision, Cawthorn said he was running in the 13th because he was afraid voters there would send “an establishment” Republican to Congress. That’s a slap at Moore.

Woodhouse wrote: “The message is a direct one: The people in the far most western part of the state (NC-14) are smart enough to send a patriotic fighter to Congress because they already did with him. However, absent intervention from Cawthorn, the rubes, and RINOS in Gaston, Polk, Rutherford, McDowell, Cleveland, and Burke, are likely to choose an establishment go-along-to-get-along Republican who is not a patriotic fighter.”

WFAE's politics reporter Steve Harrison talked to Woodhouse this week about his thoughts about Cawthorn’s switch and what it means for 2022 and beyond.

(It should be noted that Woodhouse’s cousin’s wife, Michelle Woodhouse, has announced she will be running the 14th district — the seat Cawthorn is leaving. Dallas Woodhouse says he’s not involved in that campaign.)

Q: Cawthorn’s current seat — now NC 14 — was redrawn to become less of a Republican stronghold, by adding Democratic-leaning Watauga County. The new NC 13 is a Republican +20 seat. (That’s the likelihood of a Republican winning the seat, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a non-partisan group that projects the built-in advantage of districts for both parties.)

Is he worried about losing at some point in the next decade in a Blue Wave election?

A: I don’t think that that was it. It ranks up as an R +7 and that would take a Democrat wave that was so massive that it was running Republicans out of town everywhere. I had sources who have talked to him, and he never indicated he was ever worried about losing. He thinks he can win wherever.

(Although Democrat Dan McCready almost beat Republican Mark Harris in 2018 in NC 9. That seat was an R +9)

My cousin’s wife, Michelle Woodhouse, is running. I’m not involved in that.

I wrote the piece because his video could be seen as insulting voters in that new district. He forecast himself as a savior to them, that they can’t make a decision without his intervention. I don’t think those voters are going to like that.

Q: So, why, then, did he decide to run in 13 instead of 14?

A: The obvious reason is what we said — to block Tim Moore from going to Congress. And I find that to be, you know, (odd) to make yourself as a great savior of conservatism who has never advanced one piece of legislation to do anything for conservatives. People would have to make a judgment about Tim Moore. But to make yourself out to be some holier-than-thou conservative over Tim Moore, who this week passed the largest tax cut in North Carolina history, who passed voter ID, expanded school choice.

Part of the reason I wrote that is that with my former position (as executive director of the state party) the future of the Republican party can’t be with those who reject the idea of governance.

Q: Is there any chance Tim Moore changes his mind and decides to run against Cawthorn and think, “Wait, I can beat this guy?” 

A: I don’t have any answer to that. (Moore) needed to solidify his position (as House Speaker) that he was going to stay.

I think, for him, part of it this is: Would you want the end of your political career to be to lose to this guy? Or you could keep serving as Speaker and likely have a super-majority.

"I think he is involved in something that is risky. I know that the people in his district who he represents now are unhappy with him and there will be some people in the new district who will be unhappy with him. And should the seats have to be redrawn …"
Dallas Woodhouse

Q: And what about other Republicans in a primary. Can anyone knock Cawthorn off?

A: We’ll see. I don’t want to talk about other candidates, but there are other candidates who are going to run. And as I said in my piece, these people he calls RINOS and rubes who aren’t smart enough minus Madison’s intervention may not be smart enough to understand the wisdom of him and they make a different choice.

I think he is involved in something that is risky. I know that the people in his district who he represents now are unhappy with him and there will be some people in the new district who will be unhappy with him. And should the seats have to be redrawn …

Q: If the new maps are thrown out in court sometime next year, you mean, right?

A: Yes. Should the districts have to be redrawn, his district would be the first one (Republicans in the General Assembly) would go after. Because of the geography. you can put a whole bunch of Democrats in the district from Charlotte and take a lot of Republicans out. By attacking a respected Republican who has done nothing to you, that will eventually catch up to you.

The future of the party has to be limited government — not no government.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.