A Democratic state representative from Mecklenburg County announced she is switching to the Republican Party.
During a press conference, Rep. Tricia Cotham said she switched affiliations because she believes the Democratic Party has changed and is not accepting to differing viewpoints.
“The party wants to villainize anyone who has free thought, free judgement, has solutions and wants to get to work to better our state. Not just sit in a meeting and have a workshop after a workshop, but really work with individuals to get things done. Because that is what real public servants do. If you don’t do exactly what the Democrats want you to do they will try to bully you. They will try to cast you aside,” she said.
Cotham coasted to victory in November, winning her left-leaning district in Mecklenburg County by 20 points.
The press conference announcing her party switch was very light on policy specifics. Cotham refused to answer what legislation she would support or which policies she had changed her stance on that more aligned her with Republicans.
What’s the big deal? Early on Wednesday, Cotham announced that she would switch party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, citing “bullying” from Democrats as one of her main motivators.
The switch comes at a tipping point for North Carolina’s legislature and would give the GOP 72 seats in the House — the precise number needed for a veto-proof majority. It already has the numbers in the Senate, meaning Republicans can enact policies over the opposition of Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper.
It could also precede new legislation on immigration, voting, and abortion rights that North Carolina Republicans may pursue.
Last week, Cotham’s absence alongside two other Democrats during a vote on repealing pistol permits allowed for the GOP to push the change through, despite Cooper’s veto, drawing ire from constituents and colleagues.
Various North Carolina progressive groups have expressed outrage in statements and online, calling for Cotham’s resignation and alleging she misrepresented herself to her constituents.
“Either she’s mistaken about her recollection, or for some reason I’ve been texting somebody who’s pretending to be Tricia Cotham and having conversations,” he told reporters. “We talked about Thanksgiving, we’ve talked about her election.”
Cotham’s move is a big victory for Republicans. They now hold 72 seats in the House – the exact number needed to override vetoes from Governor Roy Cooper.
But Cotham wouldn’t say how she’ll vote on one of this session’s most controversial issues: abortion. She’s previously opposed new abortion restrictions.
“I am still the same person, and I am going to do what I believe is right and follow my conscience,” she said. Asked specifically about a ban on abortions after 13 weeks — something Republicans are reportedly considering — she responded that “I’m not going to give any type of number on anything. There’s a piece of good advice I learned a long time ago: don’t discuss legislation that’s not before you, so I’m not going to do that.”
NC Republican leaders praise Cotham’s move
Top Republican leaders, including House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger, and U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, praised Cotham and celebrated the move like an NFL team welcoming a top draft pick.
They sought to portray their party as the true “big tent” party that welcomes a variety of viewpoints. Moore cited his chamber’s recent vote on Medicaid expansion, when more than 20 Republicans voted against the measure.
“Rep. Tricia Cotham campaigned as a Democrat and supporter of abortion rights, health care, public education, gun safety, and civil rights,” Reives wrote. “The voters of House District 112 elected her to serve as that person and overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. That is not the person those constituents campaigned for in a hard primary, and who they championed in a general election in a 60% Democratic district. Those constituents deserved to know what values were most important to their elected representative.”
When asked Wednesday morning if she would resign she responded, “That’s why (Democrats) are not in power.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party held its own news conference at NCDP headquarters on Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh to respond to Cotham’s decision.
“Representative Cotham’s decision to switch parties is a deceit of the highest order. It is a betrayal to the people of Mecklenburg County with repercussions not only for the people of her district but for the entire state of North Carolina,” Democratic chair Anderson Clayton said. “Reproductive freedoms are on the line. Our public schools are on the line. LGBTQ rights are on the line. Voting rights are on the line. Our future as a state is on the line.”
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