In Bakersville on Oct. 3, about 50 of Madison Cawthorn’s supporters crowded into a wooden pavilion, nearly all without masks, many sporting Trump attire, a few in cowboy boots, and one with a “Women for Trump” button featuring the First Lady. As people crammed in awaiting the arrival of the Republican nominee for Congress in the Western North Carolina district, a golf cart rolled up with a Confederate flag waving in the wind.
A day later, about 35 supporters of Moe Davis gathered for a concert at One World Brewing in Asheville. Parties were spaced more than six feet apart as they sipped on beer and enjoyed a mix of jazz and country music. Though some wore Davis buttons, they preferred casual attire to the louder political styles of the Cawthorn supporters. Nearly everyone wore a mask.
“We stand for the flag”
Cawthorn’s event, promoted on Facebook as the “Mitchell County Meet & Greet!” was held in a covered shelter at the Bakersville Pavilion.
As more people crowded under the shelter, they sat on the wooden benches, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder to make space. Those who couldn’t get a coveted seat or didn’t arrive early stood around the perimeter. Soon there were about 50 people.
Cawthorn was welcomed with cheers as he rolled his wheelchair through the dewy grass to the front of the pavilion.
“We, as patriotic Americans, say in this country we only kneel to Jesus Christ and our God. And we stand for the flag,” he told the crowd.
The crowd became denser. People on the outside moved closer so they could hear him and get video and pictures with their phones.
It was a pro-Trump group. One of the few men who wore a mask had one that said “Trump” and a T-shirt that said, “Make America Great Again.” A teenage girl had “TRUMP” painted on her forehead in red and blue.
The fact that the president recently contracted the virus didn’t change Cawthorn’s view on masks.
“I trust all of my supporters, people who come to my events, to make their own personal assessment,” he said during an interview with The 9th Street Journal after the event.
Many supporters looped through the meet-and-greet line more than once. Some wanted another picture, others just wanted to chat more. A few supporters brought him gifts. One woman handed Cawthorn a white envelope and someone else gave him a book. He signed posters with his face on it, posed cheek-to-cheek for photos, and shared laughs.
Although he didn’t wear a mask during the event or while posing for photos, he offered to do so during an interview with The 9th Street Journal.
“If someone feels uncomfortable with me not being in a mask near them, then I want to take that precaution. Like when I see my grandparents, I always put a mask on,” he said.
However, about midway through the conversation, his blue mask began slipping down his face. It soon slipped below his nose, only covering his mouth. And he made no move to fix it.
Plenty of hand sanitizer
At the event for Davis, the Democratic nominee, the merchandise table included hand sanitizer bottles with the campaign logo. The table was located on a balcony overlooking the stage and, like everything else at the event, was safely distanced from other tables and chairs.
“We’re taking this virus seriously and want to do everything right,” said Davis.
The event, located in the spacious outdoor seating area at One World Brewing, where they sell hemp ale and an IPA called Citra Bomb, drew about 35 people. They kept socially distant and waited to fill up plastic cups with beer from a brightly colored celestially-printed van. Two supporters opted for hard apple cider as they listened to folk singer Jane Kramer.
Davis, in a black mask, sat with his wife at a table, listened to the music and drank his beer.
On the high wooden fence beside Davis was a sign in the shape of a black heart that said “Black Lives Matter” and another that reminded customers to stay six feet apart. The establishment also had its own hand sanitizer at nearly every table.
Davis’s supporters followed the sign’s directions. During the event, an attendee came up to him in an N-95 mask and kneeled on the ground, carefully keeping his distance.
At the end of the event, he thanked the campaign’s volunteers and contributors. When he said he pledged not to accept any corporate funding, the crowd cheered.
“I want to make it clear that I wanna go to Washington and represent the people here in Western North Carolina,” Davis said.
In photo at top, a family poses for a picture with Madison Cawthorn. Photo by Bella Caracta | The 9th Street Journal