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North Carolina Democrat switches to Republican, giving GOP veto-proof majority

By Sarah May
|
April 6, 2023

In what is being characterized as a seismic shift in the North Carolina legislative landscape, state Rep. Tricia Cotham announced Wednesday that she was switching party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and thus delivering a veto-proof supermajority to the GOP, as The Hill reports.

Cotham made her decision known during a press conference in Raleigh during which she lamented that “the modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable” to her.

“I am no longer a Democrat”

Speaking outside the North Carolina GOP headquarters, the lawmaker from Mecklenburg County began, “I am no longer a Democrat, but I remain a public servant, that is what I am called to do,” as CNN reported.

“The party that represents me and my principles and what is best for North Carolina is the Republican Party,” Cotham continued.

Noting that she had “been welcomed with open arms” by her new colleagues in the GOP, Cotham added, “I am a single mom of two amazing sons, a teacher, a small-business owner, a woman with strong faith, a national championship basketball coach, and a public servant.”

“Today,” Cotham stated, “I add Republican to that list.”

The turning point

Articulating the rationale for her headline-grabbing move, Cotham said that, as CNN noted, “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 I have.”

“I really could not believe that that was the conversation that was happening at that time, and I was deeply offended,” Cotham said, adding, “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?”

Remarking on the regrettable turn she believes Democrats have taken in recent years, Cotham described the party as a one that “wants to villainize anyone who has free thought, free judgment, has solutions and wants to get to work to better our state,” according to The Hill.

“What happened to the concept of a big tent party?” Cotham asked rhetorically. “What happened to these ideas that we're inclusive, we're tolerant, we're so welcoming to everybody. No, you're not.”

Republicans react

In reacting to Cotham's decision, North Carolina Republican Party chair Michael Whatley suggested that it spoke volumes about the radical direction favored by those on the other side of the aisle.

“We are thrilled to have Rep. Cotham join the Republican Party to advance solutions for North Carolina families. This announcement continues to reflect that the Democratic Party is too radical for North Carolina,” Whatley said.

“The values of the Republican Party align with voters, and the people of Mecklenburg County should be proud to have her representation in Raleigh,” he added, as The Hill further noted.

Also weighing in on the news was Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who extended a warm welcome to Cotham and added, according to CNN, “Even in a Biden district in a purple state, Democrats are reading the writing on the wall: liberal policies are too extreme and they're failing Americans.”

“Political earthquake”

Democrats in the state wasted no time in expressing their disappointment and anger over the newly minted Republican's shock announcement, with Gov. Roy Cooper (D) telling CNN, “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 was always said she would vote when these issues arise, regardless of party affiliation,” the governor added.

State Democratic Party chair Anderson Clayton was blunt in his assessment of the situation, declaring, “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.”

Summing up the current state of play was Congressman Jeff Jackon (NC-14), who declared Cotham's switch a “political earthquake” and noted, “[t]here 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.”