The North Carolina Republican intervened, proving he won a supermajority in the state House after the Charlotte-area Democrat announced Wednesday that he would switch sides.
State Rep. Tricia Cotham, who won the Democratic Party in a blue state, fell by almost 20 points, said at a news conference in Raleigh that “the Democratic Party today has become unknown to me.”
“I am no longer a Democrat, but I remain a public servant, that is what I am called to do. The party that represents me and my principles and what’s best in North Carolina is the Republican Party,” Cotham, dressed in red and surrounded by his new Republican colleagues, said outside GOP state headquarters in Raleigh.
“I am a single mother of two wonderful children, a teacher, a small business owner, a woman of great faith, a national basketball coach, and a public servant. Today I am adding to that list of Republicans,” he said, noting that he was welcomed by his new colleagues.
Cotham’s passage could have major implications for law-making in the Tar Heel State. Republicans already held the majority in the North Carolina Senate. Cotham’s flip gives them 72 seats in the state House – and enough votes in both chambers to defeat any interference from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Cotham’s plan was to change parties first announced by Axios. Roncus arrived in Cotham about the party switch.
Cotham served in the state as a Democrat for a decade before stepping down in 2016. He ran again in 2022, winning the crowded Democratic primary and then the general election for the newly drawn 112th district in southern Mecklenburg County.
At a news conference Wednesday, Cotham said, “It was a milestone for me when I was criticized for using the American flag and the praying hands emoji on all my social media platforms and also on the back of different vehicles that I have.”
“Of course I could not believe the truth, because the conversations that took place at that time, and I was very shocked”, he said, adding “to say that it is false and that it is not possible to display a sign that the rest hijack something else, why are we at this point in the republic?
North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement Wednesday that Cotham “continues to think the Democratic Party is too entrenched in North Carolina.”
“The values of the Republican Party align with the voters, and Mecklenburg County should be proud to be represented in Raleigh.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also welcomed Cotham’s GOP, saying in a statement Wednesday, “Even in Biden’s country in a purple state, Democrats are reading the writing on the wall: liberal policies are too extreme and they are failing Americans. .
Democrats reacted with anger and pain to Cotham’s decision.
“Rep. Cotham’s votes on a generation of women’s freedom, election laws, LGBTQ rights and strong public schools will determine the direction of the state we love. It’s hard to believe that he would hold these longstanding principles and still vote the way he always said he would vote when he did, regardless of party affiliation,” Cooper said in a statement to reporters on Tuesday.
Recently elected North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton called on the state legislator to resign.
“Rep. Cotham’s advice on exchanging parts is a fallacy of the highest order. It’s a betrayal of the people of Mecklenburg County, with repercussions not only for the people of their county, but also for the entire state of North Carolina,” Clayton said in a conference call Wednesday in Raleigh outside the headquarters with other Democrats and residents. the district of Cotham. “Reproductive liberties 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 nation is on the line.
“This is not about political revenge. This is about the constituents who trusted Rep. Cotham to defend their assets, who now have little confidence that they will do it,” Clayton added. “HD112 is a 60% Democratic district, just like you. And they didn’t want to vote Republican. They voted Democrat.”
Cameron Pruette, chair of the LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County, said at a news conference, “I knew there was a problem when we invited Tricia Cotham to the Human Campaign dinner a few weeks ago, she didn’t show up. Is this a premeditated move? How long has she known? Voters deserve to know.”
US Rep. Jeff Jackson, a former state senator who represents parts of Mecklenburg County; Wednesday Cotham decided that the “political movement of the earth” meant it would have “major consequences” for millions of people.
“Although we don’t know how to pass any bill, dozens of bills that were essentially dead — from election law changes to reproductive freedom to LGBTQ rights to education policy — may have been brought back to life.” he said. “And the state budget — which controls the education system — can now be passed entirely because of Republican votes.”
“There are no substitutes in North Carolina. She will be able to serve a full two years, which just started in January. For this time the Republicans will now be in full power,” Jackson said.
Cotham’s campaign website, which still lists her as a Democrat as of Wednesday afternoon, touted her priorities as voter protection, affordable housing, health care and fair public schools, among other issues. Under a section titled “Equality for All,” Cotham calls himself a “fighter for LGBTQ+ rights” and states, “Already, LGBTQ+ youth are being targeted by state and country lawmakers. I will stand against discriminatory laws and work hard to pass more protections at the public level.”
Cotham sought election last year with a subscription to EMILY’s Listwhich backs Democratic supporters of women’s abortion rights.
Last week, North Carolina’s political interference blocked the state from allowing laws to loosen licensing requirements for pistol purchases. The absence of three Democratic parties in the state, including Cotham, allowed the Republicans to push through the primary.
This story has been updated with additional information.