Now-GOP Rep. Tricia Cotham says ‘I am going to listen to my heart’ when voting

RALEIGH, N.C. — After longtime local leader and Mecklenburg County Rep. Tricia Cotham decided to switch her political affiliation, there are now calls for her resignation.

Channel 9 reported Tuesday that Cotham decided to join the Republican Party, and government reporter Joe Bruno spoke to her in Raleigh about why she decided to make this move now.

Cotham told Bruno she is not leaving the Democratic Party, but said the party left her. The longtime Democrat’s change in affiliation means the GOP now has a supermajority to pass whatever it wants.

“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,” Cotham said in her official announcement in Raleigh Wednesday. “Today, I add Republican to that list.”

It’s arguably one of the most consequential announcements Raleigh has seen in decades.

‘I am going to listen to my heart’

Cotham represents Mint Hill, Matthews, east Charlotte, and parts of east Mecklenburg County. In a one-on-one interview, Bruno asked Cotham if this move is a betrayal to the Democrats who put her in office.

Cotham said she is still the same person that Democrats overwhelmingly voted for a few months ago, but that positions can evolve.

On the topic of abortion, she declined to say whether she would vote for new restrictions, or if she considers herself pro-choice.

Cotham said she came to the decision after blows and personal attacks from her party over not always voting the Democratic way. She said some of those messages were sent to her son.

“You can come after me all day long,” Cotham said. “Come after me. But you mess with my kids and you mess with my family, that’s a different situation.”

Her defection means Republicans now have a supermajority -- an express lane to pass whatever legislation they want without having to worry about Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. One of those bills may target abortion.

How Cotham navigates the hot-button issue remains to be seen. When asked several times in a 24-hour period, she declined to rule out voting for more abortion restrictions.

“I am going to do what I think is best for my district, what is best for the state, and I am going to listen to my heart,” Cotham said.

Cotham said she hasn’t been promised or given anything in exchange for switching parties.

To the unaffiliated and Democratic voters in her district who feel betrayed, she said she will fight for them.

“They have a real lawmaker who will listen, who cares, who shows up, who works,” she said.

The safe Democratic district Cotham currently represents will change soon. NC Speaker Tim Moore said the districts will be redrawn and incumbency is something they take into account.

Response from NC voters

Several Democratic voters demanded Wednesday that Cotham resign from her seat, saying she betrayed her commitment to her constituents.

“Not only did she betray the people who voted for her in House District 112, but she has betrayed our entire state,” said Jane Whitley, the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party chair.

“My head is still swimming that Tricia Cotham would turn on us like this, because she has just handed the Republican Party full rein of the state of North Carolina,” said DonnaMarie Woodson, the president of the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County.

Republicans are looking forward to working with Cotham. Speaker Tim Moore said the pressure Cotham felt to vote with Democrats won’t be the case with his party.

“She is one of the most bipartisan who would work with us a great deal,” Moore said.

Cotham insists she didn’t plan on becoming a Republican until after the election, but top Republicans are welcoming her.

“What I can promise you is, we have room for an independent-minded, strong-willed woman who represents their constituents well,” State Sen. Vickie Sawyer said.

Cotham said there wasn’t a specific breaking point for her, but she said personal attacks against her and her family weighed on her and influenced her decision.

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