Party switch hands N.C. GOP a supermajority

State Rep. Tricia Cotham announced she is leaving the Democratic Party to caucus with Republicans.
North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham announces she is switching affiliation to the Republican Party at a news conference Wednesday, April 5, 2023, at the North Carolina Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. The change gives Republican state legislators a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

North Carolina Rep. Tricia Cotham announced she is leaving the Democratic Party to caucus with Republicans, giving the GOP a supermajority capable of overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) vetoes.

“I’m going to vote my conscience. I’m going to listen to others. I’m going to ask their opinion,” Cotham said at a news conference Wednesday morning at state Republican Party headquarters. “We should all be able to evolve, and we should not be shamed for learning new perspectives at all.”

Cotham, 44, won election in her Mecklenburg County district in 2022. She had previously served in the legislature between 2007 and 2017. In 2016, she ran for an open seat in Congress, though she lost the Democratic primary to U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D).

Cotham said she had been relegated to a freshman role during her first Democratic caucus meeting, despite her previous service.

“I was shunned,” Cotham said.

House Speaker Tim Moore (R) welcomed Cotham to the Republican fold.

“Now, we have an outright supermajority,” Moore said. “It makes it a little easier, by the way.”

Democrats reacted with fury, calling on Cotham to resign.

“Rep. Tricia Cotham campaigned as a Democrat and supporter of abortion rights, health care, public education, gun safety and civil rights. The voters of House District 112 elected her to serve as that person and overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates up and down the ballot,” House Minority Leader Robert Reives (D) said in a statement. “Now, just a few months later, Rep. Cotham is changing parties. That is not the person that was presented to the voters of House District 112.”

The switch will hand Republicans a new lever of control over the direction of North Carolina politics, even with Cooper in the governor’s office.

Moore declined to speculate on specific bills that he would prioritize, and he said he expected a bipartisan vote on the state budget.