Madison Cawthorn lost his bid for reelection on Tuesday despite former President Trump’s efforts to lift him out of a self-created maelstrom of controversy. Sandy Smith is another diehard Trump devotee mired in controversy, but unlike the 26-year-old incumbent, she was able to prevail on Tuesday, winning a crowded Republican primary to represent the state’s 1st District in Congress.
How exactly is Smith controversial? The far-right mayor of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has has failed to file a financial disclosure — according to a fact check by the Raleigh News & Observer — and tweeted last year that she was present in Washington, D.C., for the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
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She’s also been accused of abuse by multiple ex-husbands. Randy Auman, who was married to Smith from 1995 to 2001, told the Carolina Journal this month that she tried to run him over with a car. In 2009, another husband, Eric Goranson, wrote in a court filing that they split up after she woke him up in the middle of the night by repeatedly bashing him over the head with an alarm clock.
The revelations come as part of a cache of opposition research her primary opponent, Sandy Roberson, tweeted a link to earlier this month, and ran an attack ad detailing several of them.
Smith did not immediately reply to an email from Rolling Stone seeking clarification about her denial of the allegations of abuse. The North Carolina GOP, which congratulated Smith on her primary win on Tuesday, also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Smith has denied the allegations, arguing they were dismissed in court, and threatening legal action against the people publicizing them.
“I never ran over anyone with a car and I never hit anyone in the head with a frying pan,” she wrote. “If I did that don’t you think I would be in jail? All of these #FakeNews allegations have been dismissed by a judge and the people peddling these lies will PAY when I take them to court.”
She added that she will be “bringing a frying pan to DC.”
Auman told the Carolina Journal in an interview that Smith took swings at him (the article makes no mention of kitchenware) but never injured him, although he did acknowledge that she attempted to run him over with his Mustang.
Roberson has said Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield had the information in the files two years ago when he was running against Smith, but opted not to release it because the race was not close. Smith lost to Butterfield in 2020 by nearly 10 percentage points, but the seat is now up for grabs after Butterfield announced his retirement last fall. Smith beat Roberson by around five percentage points on Tuesday, and will take on Democrat state Sen. Donald Davis in the general election. Sen. Davis’ campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Rolling Stone.
The troves of files released by Roberson includes allegations of abuse not just from her two ex-husbands, but from her daughter, who filed for a protective order against Smith in 2012. Tiffany Anderson wrote in the request that her mother told her she was going to be a “trailer trash loser” if she didn’t go into the military against her will. The exchange then became physical, according to Anderson’s statement. “She pushed and shoved me, she slapped me, pulled my hair, pulled me to the ground and sat on me,” she wrote. “She held me down by my hair and punched me in the face with a closed fist.”
Smith is also a conspiracy theorist who has touted endorsements from people like Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Reps. Cawthorn and Paul Gosar, as well as Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who is currently under an ethics investigation for suggesting that Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo was a false flag, and whose tweets Smith shares regularly. Smith has bragged that she is the only candidate in the race who believes Trump won the 2020 election, and her website includes a link to a petition to audit North Carolina’s election results — despite the fact that Trump won the state convincingly.
Smith will be an underdog to win the general election for North Carolina’s 1st district, where Democrats have traditionally dominated. But her primary victory and support from the Republican establishment is another sign that conspiracy theorists and extremists have taken over the party’s mainstream. Fitness for office is an afterthought so long as a candidate is able to hit all the notes Trump requires, most importantly denying that the 2020 election was legitimate. Smith’s win also isn’t the first time a Republican accused of spousal abuse has won a primary this cycle. Earlier this month an Indiana man won a school board primary despite being in jail for allegedly murdering his wife with a flower pot.
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