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North Carolina Republicans gained a veto-proof supermajority in the state House after a Charlotte-area Democrat announced Wednesday she was switching parties.
State Rep. Tricia Cotham, who won as a Democrat in her blue district last fall by nearly 20 points, said at a news conference in Raleigh that “the modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me.”
‘I am no longer a Democrat’
“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 is best for North Carolina is the Republican Party,” Cotham, wearing a red dress and surrounded by her new Republican colleagues, said outside the state GOP headquarters in Raleigh.
Cotham’s switch could have major implications for lawmaking as Republicans already held a supermajority in the North Carolina Senate. Cotham’s flip gives them 72 seats in the state House – and enough votes in both chambers to override any veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Cotham served in the state House as a Democrat for nearly a decade before stepping away in 2016. She ran again in 2022, winning a crowded Democratic primary and then the general election for the newly drawn House District 112 in southeastern Mecklenburg County.
At the news conference Wednesday, Cotham said that “the turning point for me was when I was criticized for using the American flag and the praying hands emoji on all my social media platforms and even on the back of different vehicles that I have.”
“I really could not believe that that was the conversations that was happening at that time, and I was deeply offended,” she said, adding that “to say that that is wrong and not to be able to show off a flag because the others hijack it for something else, why are we at this place in politics?”
Cotham’s switch to make NC GOP supermajority ‘hard to believe’
Heated Democrats reacted to Cotham’s decision with anger, questions and disappointment.
Cameron Pruette, the chair of the LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County, said at the news conference, “I knew there was a problem, when we invited Tricia Cotham to the Human Rights Campaign dinner a few weeks ago, she didn’t show up. Is this a premeditated move? How long has she known? The voters deserve to know.”
“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,” Cooper said in the statement to CNN on Tuesday.
The White House also weighed in on Cotham’s switch.
“Bedrock American freedoms are at stake in votes the North Carolina legislature is taking,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “We sincerely hope that all members of the state house and state senate listen to their conscience – instead of politics – and put North Carolinians’ rights and the safety of their communities first.”
Newly elected North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton called on Cotham to resign from her seat.
“This is not about political vendettas. This is about the constituents that trusted Rep. Cotham to champion their values, who are now left with little reassurance that she will do that,” Clayton added. “HD112 is a 60% Democratic district, y’all. And they did not choose to elect a Republican. They chose to elect a Democrat.”
“Rep. 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,” Clayton said at a Wednesday news conference in Raleigh outside party headquarters with other Democrats and residents of Cotham’s district. “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.”
Cotham ran for election last year with the endorsement of EMILY’s List, which backs female Democratic supporters of abortion rights.
North Carolina is already rolling back gun laws
It is now legal to purchase a pistol without a permit in North Carolina after the state House voted 71-46 on Senate Bill 41 on March 29, one day after the state Senate voted 30-19 to do the same.
At the time, the absence of three Democrats allowed them to push through the override, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.
“There are no recall provisions in North Carolina. She will be able to serve her full two-year term, which just began in January. For that period, Republicans will now be in full control,” said US Rep. Jeff Jackson, a former state senator who represents parts of Mecklenburg County.
Scott Huffman, running for North Carolina’s District 10, is joined by a chorus of Democratic party members on social media users who suspect they’ve been lied to about Tricia Cotham the entire time.
If George Santos is any indication, the GOP will have no problem embracing yet another political shapeshifter who magnifies culture war arguments in lieu of pragmatic governance.