We just posted yesterday a profile of Rod Honeycutt, the third Republican to announce a primary bid against 11th Dist. Congressman Madison Cawthorn. Now there's a fourth, and he looks like even more a potential winner -- if the vote against Cawthorn doesn't get split four ways.
|Eric Batchelor with his wife Kirstin
After retiring from the Army in 2015, Batchelor trained as an EMT and paramedic, moved back to the western NC mountains in 2018, worked as an EMT and did additional training to become a law enforcement officer. He was then hired as a deputy by the Haywood County sheriff and became a patrol officer.
Then this happened (I quote Cory Vaillancourt's version at length because it's a good story):
He’d been on duty since 5 p.m. and it was already shaping up to be a busy night, but as Eric Batchelor sat in his patrol car writing up reports around 2 a.m. on July 28, 2020, he got another call about a disturbance.
“I think the quote was, ‘Hooting and hollering at the moon,’ ” Batchelor said. “To be honest, we get a lot of these calls.”
Batchelor had only been a Haywood County Sheriff’s Deputy for 10 months, but he was no rookie. A U.S. Army infantry officer with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Batchelor served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising from platoon leader to battalion commander before retiring after 20 years as a Lt. Col. in 2015.
Driving toward the scene on Old Asheville Highway, Batchelor heard updates on the call. Someone’s in my yard. Someone in my yard has a gun. Someone in my yard has a gun and they just shot at my house. Someone with a gun is moving toward the main thoroughfare.
“And so you start driving faster and faster, and you’re paying more attention to the road than you are to what’s going on with the radio, but then as you show up there and you get yourself under control, you start to take in the situation and then you get it,” Batchelor said. “He has an assault rifle. He’s up on the billboard.” ...
...an elderly woman home alone made that initial disturbance call. Canton police beat Batchelor to the scene and found Jacob Wilbur Wright, 32, perched on a billboard catwalk a dozen feet off the ground, holding an assault rifle.
Batchelor had been in dangerous situations before, having been fired upon during his Army service, but when he pulled up, he immediately felt the stress — the accelerated breathing and the tunnel vision as he scanned the scene, awash in flashing red and blue lights.
Taking cover behind his car, Batchelor made visual contact with Wright and began communicating with him.
“If I remember correctly, I think I told him, ‘Hey, let’s go get a cup of coffee. We’ll talk about it. We’ll figure this out,’ ” Batchelor said. “He was saying things that I probably don’t need to repeat.”
Wright’s weapon appeared to be jammed, so Batchelor decided to make his move. Using his remote, he popped his trunk to access his shield as the Canton officers covered him.
“As soon as I stood up from behind the vehicle,” he said, “I watched him clear the jam, the barrel of the weapon came up, and he pulled the trigger.”
Something that had never happened to Eric Batchelor in combat happened to him that night just outside Canton — he was shot.
“The immediate thought is, ‘Oh dear God. I just got hit by a truck,’” Batchelor said....
The Canton police took down the shooter, killling him on the spot. Batchelor then endured months in hospital and in therapy to get back on the force: “I have two plates that basically connect my elbow to my shoulder, 21 screws holding those in place and a bone graft that came out of my leg went in between those plates and reconnected the shoulder to the elbow,” he said.
He's back at work as a deputy: “In this day and age, law enforcement has such a bad reputation. I would say that that is not really who we are. We’re a cross section of society and you get the same personalities in law enforcement that you get in society,” he said. “Like 99.9 percent of the people that I work with are just here to serve. That night when I and the rest of those officers were on the way to that call, we were just there to serve.”
He's reserved and measured enough to avoid a frontal attack on Cawthorn. He comes closest (without mentioning Cawthorn by name) on the Issues page, under the subheading "Constituent Services": "When I am not in Washington DC to represent you on every single vote, I will be in this district working for you. Instead of flying around the country on photo opportunities, I will be visiting Mayors, Sheriffs, County Commissioners, and businesses to hear their concerns."
The most "moderate" thing about him? Probably this, especially in the heavily armed 11th CD: He says he supports "appropriate background checks that keep firearms out of the hands of the wrong people."