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Cotham formalizes party switch to North Carolina GOP

Representative Tricia Cotham announces she is leaving the Democratic party and is joining the Republican party.
Matt Ramey
for WUNC
Representative Tricia Cotham announces she is leaving the Democratic party and is joining the Republican party.

North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham has formally changed her party registration from Democrat to Republican in a shift that gives GOP legislators veto-proof control over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cotham's announcement last Wednesday that she was changing her party affiliation rattled North Carolina Democrats, who made preserving Cooper's veto power a top priority in last fall’s campaigns. A GOP supermajority could open the door to new abortion restrictions and other conservative policies that the party has not had the numbers to enact over Cooper's opposition since 2018.

Cotham, a former educator who served in the state House for nearly 10 years through 2016 before returning this year, criticized Democrats for trying to control her and refusing to accept her differing viewpoints. The Republican Party best represents her principles, she said last week, but does not necessarily indicate how she'll vote on every issue.

“She has talked about her need for ‘freedom of thought’ and standing up to her old party,” Cooper said in a statement Monday. “The question is can she also stand up to her new one, especially when they push an agenda she has fought against for years?”

Some Democratic Party leaders have labeled Cotham's decision a betrayal and demanded she resign to appease Charlotte-area voters in her liberal-leaning district who did not choose a Republican to represent them. They have refuted her claims of mistreatment from the party, calling them “off base” and “untrue.”

Cotham’s voter registration showed her listed as a Republican in the State Board of Elections database as of Monday afternoon.

The switch means Republicans now officially hold the 72 seats required in the 120-seat House for a veto-proof supermajority. While Senate Republicans already held the 30 seats necessary to override vetoes, House Republicans were previously one seat short.

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