The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who currently serves as a Democratic commissioner in Buncombe County and has long worked to advance LGBTQ rights in the South, made the announcement in a campaign video in which she attacked Cawthorn, pointing to his January 6 speech to supporters of former President Donald Trump, some of whom later participated in the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol.
“Some people will say a gay woman who’s a Christian minister just can’t get elected in the South,” Beach-Ferrara said in the video. “Not to mention, she’s a Democrat. But I say an insurrectionist who flirts with Nazis and fires up a violent crowd to attack our democracy — well, he shouldn’t get reelected anywhere.”
Though Cawthorn handily won North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District last year, Beach-Ferrara’s announcement could mean a rising star of the conservative right will have to fight a costly reelection bid, as Democratic challengers like Beach-Ferrara have raised hefty sums of money in the past when they have taken on Republicans such as Cawthorn who have drawn the ire of national Democrats.
The congressman has been at the center of several controversies since his election last November, including one caused by a speech he gave at a pro-Trump rally on January 6. Beach-Ferrara’s announcement comes as Cawthorn is facing allegations from former college classmates of sexual misconduct, which he has previously denied.
Cawthorn also faced backlash during his campaign for photos on his Instagram page showing him visiting Adolf Hitler’s vacation house in Germany in 2017 and referring to the dictator as “the Führer.” After Cawthorn’s opponent seized on the images, the then-candidate told WLOS News 13 that he denounces “white nationalism, any kind of Nazism.”
CNN has reached out to Cawthorn’s office for comment on Beach-Ferrara’s announcement.
Already, the Democrat is working to raise funds, having shared a link in a tweet on Wednesday in which she wrote: “Chip in to flip this seat blue and unseat Cawthorn.”
After the Capitol riot, Beach-Ferrara called on Cawthorn to resign in a column in the Asheville Citizen Times, writing that he should be removed from office if he refused to resign because “he has violated his oath of office” by helping to incite the attack.
On her campaign website, Beach-Ferrara says she will focus on childhood education, combating the opioid crisis and expanding opportunities for small businesses.
In 2011, Beach-Ferrara founded the Campaign for Southern Equality, an LGBTQ rights group that has worked to advance marriage equality and increase health access and resources for the LGBTQ community in southern states. Her work with the organization has at times seen her participate in national debates on the issue, including in 2015, when the group filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court’s landmark same sex marriage case. The group argued that gay and lesbian people in the South do not possess political power to achieve equality through the legislative process and urged the justices to “act quickly to ensure the freedom to marry across the nation.”
“I felt a calling, so I got ordained,” Beach-Ferrara, who is a minister in the United Church of Christ, said in the campaign video. “We took the campaign for marriage equality to small towns all across the South because I believe love wins everywhere and every time.”
The Democrat also serves as a chaplain for Echoing Green, a fellowship program that works to engage in various social issues through funding operations for social innovation.
Beach-Ferrara graduated from Brown University in 1998 with a degree in English before earning an MFA from Warren Wilson College in 2001 and a Master of Divinity from Harvard University in 2010, a biography that contrasts sharply with Cawthorn, who left college before completing a degree, and who at age 25 is the youngest member of Congress.