RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Democratic state representative joined Republicans Wednesday morning where she announced she’s switching parties, giving Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the General Assembly.
The switch by Rep. Tricia Cotham (Mecklenburg) was made official at the podium of the state Republican Party Headquarters.
Following an introduction from NC House Speaker Tim Moore, Cotham said the “modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me and to so many others across this state and this country. The party wants to villainize anyone who has free thought.”
“I’ve suffered many attacks since I’ve been up here from Democrats in the party, from blasting me on Twitter, to calling me names, to going after my family, going after my children. That is wrong. And, I will not stand for that,” Cotham added.
She previously served 10 years in the General Assembly as a Democrat, stepping away for a few years before running again in 2022. She won her seat by a margin of 59-41.
While Republicans won a veto-proof supermajority in the Senate last year, they fell one seat short in the House. Cotham’s switch now gives Republicans the 72nd vote they need to have a three-fifths supermajority for the final two years Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is in office.
“It became very clear to me early on in January that you better vote in line with everything Gov. Cooper tells you to do from signing onto bills, to he wanted to pick your seat on the House floor, to your committee requests. All of this sense of control. I will not be controlled by anyone,” Rep. Cotham said.
CBS 17 reached out to Gov. Cooper’s office regarding Cotham’s claims. A spokesperson did not address the specifics of what Cotham said Wednesday morning but referred us to a statement he issued the day before when the news of her planned party switch first broke:
“This is a disappointing decision. Rep. Cotham’s votes on women’s reproductive freedom, election laws, LGBTQ rights and strong public schools will determine the direction of the state we love. It’s hard to believe she would abandon these long held principles and she should still vote the way she has always said she would vote when these issues arise, regardless of party affiliation.”
House Democratic Leader Rep. Robert Reives, who called on Cotham to resign, said the following in response to her: “I have never seen anybody in our caucus get treated that way, by anyone. And that is not behavior I am tolerant of at all.”
During a press conference Wednesday, Democrats called Cotham’s decision a “betrayal.”
“It is ironic to me in the middle of Holy Week, when we are about to discuss Judas trading away people for pieces of silver, what did Tricia Cotham trade away for my community?” said Cameron Pruitt, chair of LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County. “We deserve better. And, if she can’t vote with our values, she must resign.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said Wednesday he’s had “great conversations” with other Democrats about potentially changing parties as well.
In response to that, NC Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said, “I fully believe that we’re going to have our Democrats stay in line with what we’re expecting right now. But, I will say, it’s up to everybody. And, I do want to say I want people to out themselves to me now so we know what we’re up against in 2024 to be honest with you.”
Cotham’s decision comes as Republicans will take up key issues this session impacting abortion access, voting rights and LGBTQ rights.
Rep. Cotham has previously advocated for maintaining abortion access in North Carolina, even sharing her own personal experience on the House floor. But when asked about the issue Wednesday, she would not discuss specifics of potential restrictions she may support.
“I’m not going to give any type of number on anything. There was a piece of good advice I learned from a long time ago: don’t discuss legislation that’s not before you,” she said. “I am still the same person, and I am going to do what I believe is right and follow my conscience. I’m not going to be bullied around.”