Representative Tricia Cotham is switching parties, moving from being a registered Democrat to a registered Republican.
The switch, which was first reported by WBTV news partner Axios Raleigh, was announced at a press conference at the N.C. Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh Wednesday morning.
Cotham sat down with WBTV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner Tuesday night ahead of the announcement.
“This has been something I have considered for a very long time. I have seen the Democratic party change tremendously. When I came here and when I campaigned to be here, I really believed I could make change in the Democratic party,” she said.
“I realized on day one I was not welcomed and that they did not want me here. And that was very hard and I still kept trying,” Cotham continued, saying she was cut off from her fellow Democratic caucus members.
Cotham’s decision to switch parties comes months into the legislative session in which Republicans already had a supermajority in the N.C. Senate and were just one vote shy of a supermajority in the N.C. House.
Now, with supermajorities in both chambers, Republican lawmakers have the votes to override any veto of Governor Roy Cooper.
That fact will be critical as lawmakers take up legislation addressing a host of hot-button issues, including an abortion ban.
In her interview Tuesday night, Cotham would not commit to positions on specific legislation but indicated she was open to supporting new abortion restrictions.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told WBTV that lawmakers would likely end up introducing a bill that bans abortions after 12 weeks. State law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.
“The spot that most North Carolinians, in terms of the consensus, is somewhere down closer to the 12-week range. Personally, I support the heartbeat bill, but it appears the votes just aren’t there for that,” Moore said, adding that legislation tightening the abortion restrictions was already in the works before Cotham’s decision to switch.
Cotham’s move drew an immediate rebuke from Democrats on Tuesday.
“This is deceit of the highest order,” N.C. Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton and Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair Jane Whitley said in a joint statement.
“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 If she can no longer represent the values her constituents trusted her to champion, she should resign immediately.”
On Wednesday the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County held a press conference where members voiced their dissatisfaction with Cotham’s decision.
“She has just handed the Republican Party full reign of the State of North Carolina. It’s unconscionable but it is eyeopening at the same time … Tricia Cotham has got to resign,” President of the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County DonnaMarie Woodson said.
Maryjane Conti, Public Relations Chair for the organization likened Cotham’s change in parties to another Democrat who has drawn criticism at the national level for her votes.
“We didn’t expect her to turn into the Kyrsten Sinema of North Carolina which she basically is,” Conti said.
Governor Cooper said Cotham’s party switch was a “disappointing decision,” the AP reported Tuesday.
Her votes on “women’s reproductive freedom, election laws, LGBTQ rights and strong public schools will determine the direction of the state we love,” Cooper said in a news release.
Democrats are holding a press conference at noon Wednesday in response to Cotham’s move.
In her interview, Cotham addressed the criticism from some who have pointed out she was elected as a Democrat but will now represent her district as a Republican.
“I am still who I am,” she said. “There are people who think you automatically make this switch – because in their mind and their perception and what they see on TV and the Facebook ads that run through them—now she is going to be this monster. That’s not true. I am still who I am.”
“It is about governing, it is about leading and I have strong support in my district despite what Twitter might show,” she continued.