CHARLOTTE — Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham is switching party affiliations to join the Republican Party, sources confirmed to Channel 9′s Joe Bruno on Tuesday.
Cotham made the announcement official during a news conference with Republican Party leaders on Wednesday.
The move will give the Republican Party a supermajority in the North Carolina House, meaning the Republican legislators will be able to override a veto by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper.
Cotham, who represents North Carolina’s House District 112 of Mint Hill and parts of eastern Mecklenburg County, was elected in 2022. She defeated her Republican opponent by nearly 20 percentage points. She first served as a representative with the Democratic Party in 2007.
On Wednesday, Cotham expressed dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, saying that she felt “bullied” by other members in the party.
“The party wants to villainize anyone who has free thought,” Cotham said Wednesday morning. “If you don’t do exactly what the Democrats want you to do, they will try to bully you, they will try to cast you aside.”
Cotham blasted the Democrats during the news conference on Wednesday, accusing party members of starting “vicious rumors,” verbally attacking her, and shunning her. She also claimed that the party was focusing more on meetings rather than action on policy.
“There were all these work groups and work groups and I kept asking, What are you doing about real policy? A work group, a small group, a talking group? How does that equate to getting something done in North Carolina, and for helping our children read better? How does that help? No one seemed to really have that idea,” Cotham said.
During the news conference, Cotham repeatedly said, “I’m still the same person I am,” and pointed to her history. But she also said at the beginning of the conference that she had changed, going into this session.
“When I came back to this legislature, I knew times were different and things had changed. I also knew that I was different. I had been through a lot in life. And so I am just different too, and I’m proud of that,” Cotham said.
The Democratic Party lost several seats in 2022, but they prevented a Republican supermajority by just one vote in the House.
Twenty-two bills from the 2021-2022 session were vetoed by Gov. Cooper, and the Republican Party had indicated that it would retry pushing through some of those initiatives.
One of those initiatives was a repeal of the state’s pistol permits -- the legislature passed the repeal, then Gov. Cooper vetoed the bill, but then the Republican-controlled legislature successfully overrode the veto. It was the first time Cooper had been vetoed since 2018. Rep. Cotham’s absence from the vote was one reason the Republicans were able to override Cooper’s veto -- Cotham was in the hospital receiving treatment for long-haul Covid.
Cotham has also voted with Republicans in the past, including on a bill that would force local sheriffs to comply with requests from ICE to detain people accused of being in the country illegally.
The North Carolina Democratic Party and Mecklenburg County Democratic Party issued a joint statement after the report of Cotham’s looming party switch.
“This is deceit of the highest order,” the statement said. “Rep. Cotham’s decision is a betrayal to the people of HD-112 with repercussions not only for the people of her district, but for the entire state of North Carolina. If she can no longer represent the values her constituents trusted her to champion, she should resign immediately.”
Cotham is the daughter of Pat Cotham, who is a former member of the Democratic National Committee and a current Mecklenburg County commissioner.
According to the state legislature, Cotham currently serves on numerous committees. She’s the co-chairperson for the Education - K-12 Committee and vice chair for the Health Committee.
Channel 9′s Joe Bruno is expecting to hear more from Cotham on Wednesday to learn more about her switch to the Republican Party.
Statement from the Mecklenburg County Republican party:
“As an experienced leader, successful educator, mom to two boys, and a lifelong advocate for important causes, Tricia Cotham represents what ALL legislators should strive to become, regardless of party.
“During her 10-year service in the House, Representative Cotham has amassed a reputation for bipartisanship; working across the aisle to pass legislation to accomplish the things she promised her constituents in Mint Hill and East Mecklenburg County.”
Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair Jane Whitley’s statement:
“Tricia Cotham ran for NC House District Seat 112 as a lifelong pro-choice Democratic candidate. Voters trusted her to share the values of the Democratic Party, and as a candidate, she clearly stated that she shared our Democratic values. Today there are reports that Rep. Cotham plans to go against the will of the voters and the values she espoused in her campaign by joining the party of Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
This is deceit of the highest order. Rep. Cotham’s decision is a betrayal of the people in NC House District 112 with repercussions not only for the people of her district, but for the entire state of North Carolina. If she can no longer represent the values her constituents trusted her to champion, she should resign immediately.”
Office of the Governor statement:
“This is a disappointing decision. 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.”
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
(WATCH: NC Senate override’s Cooper’s veto on pistol permits)
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