N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg) held a press conference this morning at the N.C. GOP Headquarters in Raleigh with state Republican leaders to announce her official defection from the Democratic Party.
Cotham's switch gives Republicans a supermajority in both houses of the N.C. General Assembly, allowing them to push through policy more easily and override any of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes.
Many prominent state Republicans joined Cotham at the press conference, including N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford), N.C. Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell, Watauga), N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham).
Cotham ran as a Democrat and defeated her Republican opponent Tony Long by about 19 percent in the 2022 election.
Since news of her decision broke, she has been called on to resign by top state Democrats, including the state party chairperson Anderson Clayton and N.C. House Democratic Leader Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Randolph).
Legislation including stricter abortion laws can now be more easily be passed by the legislature. Cotham said she has never thought abortion rights "was the biggest issue facing women in North Carolina."
But, in January, Cotham co-sponsored a bill to codify the provisions of Roe v. Wade and make abortion legal until viability. In May 2022, while she was campaigning for the seat and running as a Democrat, Cotham tweeted that she would fight to codify Roe and continue her "strong record of defending the right to choose."
During the press conference, she refused to give a specific number of weeks that her ideal abortion ban would be placed at.
"What has really changed?" she said at the press conference. "I am still going to stand strong on my convictions. But I'm not going to be pigeonholed into any one issue."
Cotham said her change is not necessarily due to her positions changing, but bullying she has experienced from other women in the Democratic Party. She also said that she wants to be a "free thinker," and that party leadership was forcing her into voting in ways she didn't want to.
"We aren't perfect — in fact, we're a long way from that," N.C. Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell, Mecklenburg), who said she was at the event representing Republican women, said. "But what I can promise you is that we have room for an independently minded, strong-willed woman who represents her constituents well, a woman who embodies what it means to govern and not to be governed."
Cotham served in the N.C. House from 2007 to 2017 and left after she lost a primary bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. She rejoined the House in January and said she was treated as a freshman member, not as an experienced one.
Upon her return, though, she said she thought Democrats had moved away from actual policy and results.
Berger said he attributes Cotham's change to problems within the Democratic Party.
"It is an unfortunate thing that she is now sort of the latest in a long line of folks who can come before the public and say, 'I didn't really leave the Democratic Party — it left me,'" Berger said.
Cotham's district currently heavily favors Democratic candidates. Moore, in response to a question about how Cotham's incumbency would play into redistricting, said there have been no determinations made as of yet on redistricting, which will be done before the 2024 elections.
@DTHCityState | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.