Hendersonville – Conservative State Sen. Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville vaulted to the forefront of the race for Western North Carolina’s congressional seat last week. He announced his candidacy and his quest to help get the nation economically and socially “back on track.”
Edwards, 61, officially announced his run for Congress on Nov. 30 near the steps of the Historic Henderson County Courthouse in Downtown Hendersonville. He is a Henderson County native.
Edwards railed against Democrats spending wildly, fueling inflation and skyrocketing food and gasoline prices, opening the Mexican border to illegals (majority of them untested for COVID), and “trampling” on individual rights.
He did so while symbolically standing before replicas of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the southern edge of the Courthouse Square. “Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are stomping all over the documents that are represented right here,” Edwards told a crowd of more than 100 people.
The third-term state senator said he has “responsibly” served the constituents and the interest of the district and state. Edwards pointed to his record in Raleigh as prudent and effective, and one that transitions well to D.C. “I’ve helped lower income taxes. I’ve helped create jobs and build an economy here in Western North Carolina. I’ve helped put infrastructure right here in WNC because of the opportunity you gave me.” He wants to legislate in Washington what “I did for you in Raleigh” and “restore sanity” in federal policies.
He sees in the current federal administration policies “opposite” of the GOP in North Carolina. “I see that Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have lost their way. They’ve lost our way” with a “hard-left” agenda.
He cited the federal boom in spending then taxation to help pay for it, the flood of illegal immigration and proposals to pay them large sums of money while pandemic-related restrictions remain on legal citizens.
He told media after his speech that he will seek input on federal issue priorities, as he is “reaching out“ for district-wide support.
Some make a big deal of Edwards’ public criticism of arch-conservative U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-11th) — specifically Cawthorn’s “inflaming” comments shortly before protestors’ breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A local media person asked Edwards if he will be seen as conservative enough after questioning Cawthorn.
But many people see Edwards standing up to Cawthorn as a sign that Edwards is a much more seasoned, professional and mature politician than Cawthorn — as well as Edwards’ other GOP primary rivals.
Edwards is very consistently outspoken candidate for conservative and pragmatic causes on various issues. “I’ve helped fight for Christian values. I’ve helped fight for the unborn” against abortion, Edwards told the crowd on Nov. 30.
He noted that before entering politics he served the public commercially. He worked his way up in private business starting behind a McDonald’s counter when he was age 16. He and his wife Teresa own seven area McDonald’s restaurants. He formed the C. Edwards Group, Inc. in 1998.
Edwards serves all of Henderson and Transylvania counties and also southern Buncombe County in the 48th District. Those three are the most populous counties of the new 14th Congressional District.
That can give Edwards a leg up on other candidates for the Republican primary that will be on March 8, 2022. He said he announced his candidacy before conferring with any of his rivals to clear the field for him as the “consensus” candidate. When Mark Meadows ran, Jeff Miller of Hendersonville among others endorsed Edwards to help catapult Meadows into frontrunner status.
This time, GOP contenders include Michele Van Hooser Woodhouse. She chairs the GOP for the entire 11th District. She is also from Henderson County. Pisgah Inn owner Bruce O’Conner reportedly comes in with the biggest campaign chest. Asheville Regional Airport Authority Board Chr. Matthew Burril is running again. Burril ran in 2020 but dropped out. Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla announced his candidacy earlier on Monday.
Democrat candidates include Bruce Drysdale Elementary principal Eric Gash, a pastor and former Hendersonville Bearcat football head coach.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Tim Moffitt of Asheville said last Thursday he is running for Edwards’ state senate seat as well.
Edwards told the crowd at his rally that seeing many familiar faces is “incredible.“ Several prominent local business owners attended. Many are known supporters of Democrat and/or Republican politics. If Edwards wins the primary, such a bipartisan mix indicates he can build a broader than usual consensus of support in the general election — especially among swing-vote moderates.
WNC’s revised, 15-county 14th District’s voter registration remains a close balance between Republicans and Democrats. That makes those registered as independents a pivotal voting bloc.
Most of Watauga County up north is redistricted into the 14th including college (Appalachian State University) town Boone, which joins Asheville as another liberal-leaning enclave.
The local district was the 11th for decades and currently has 17 counties. It swung in the 80s between Republican Bill Hendon and Democrat James McClure “Jamie” Clarke — for two stints each. Republican Charles Taylor served eight successive terms — from January of 1991 to 2007.
Moderate “Blue Dog” Democrat Heath Shuler, the retired pro football quarterback, served the next three terms. Since then the Democratic Party has veered leftward, and the GOP rightward.
The two latest representatives are Republicans. Mark Meadows served two months into his fourth term, to March 30, 2020 when he left to serve as presidential chief of staff. He remains a leading conservative leader.
Cawthorn to 13th
Cawthorn, a Hendersonville native, was elected in November of 2020. He opened up his seat Nov. 11 when declaring candidacy instead for the more conservative 13th District. Congressional candidates are not required to live in the district they seek election in. Three weeks later, Edwards announced for the 14th.
The 13th is east of the 14th, along the U.S. 74 corridor. It absorbed Polk and McDowell counties and part of Rutherford from the 11th (now 14th).
North Carolina got one more congressional district — the 14th — as among six states with greater population in the 2020 Census in proportion to other states.