In early April, N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg) announced she was changing her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, just a few months after she was sworn in.
After the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans in the N.C. House fell one seat short of a supermajority. But, Cotham’s partisan switch secured a supermajority for Republicans and allowed them to override any of Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes.
Cotham’s new alignment, though not the first partisan switch in North Carolina's history, garnered national attention and shifted the politics of the state.
The Democratic leader of the House, N.C. Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Randolph) said, while he still has a good working relationship with Cotham, he felt like her constituency had a right to know how she felt before she switched.
“Unfortunately, I think a lot of people who are in leadership, especially here in North Carolina, want people not to trust government,” Reives said. “And so when you already have a distrust of government, when something like that happens, it does feel like to people who vote, that they've not had a chance to have their voices get heard.”
Cotham did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Tar Heel.
In May, after Cotham's switch, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 20 over Cooper's veto, creating a new state-wide 12-week abortion ban.
Jane Pinsky, the director of the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform with Common Cause North Carolina, said Republicans' new ability to override the gubernatorial veto essentially takes minority party representatives and the executive branch out of the governing process.
“It makes a mockery of the idea of a two-part legislative system,” Pinsky said.