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Democrats React to Tricia Cotham’s Decision to Switch Parties

Tricia Cotham, Longtime Democrat in North Carolina Assembly Switches Sides

A Black woman wearing glasses and a blue top speaks passionately at a podium outdoors while women back her up holding signs "Do the Right Thing, Tricia" referring to Tricia Cotham
DonnaMarie Woodson, president of Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County, spoke at a press conference at the Mecklenburg County Democratic Headquarters on Wednesday calling for N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham to resign. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, N.C. House Rep. Tricia Cotham, a longtime Democrat in the North Carolina General Assembly currently representing the newly drawn District 112, made official her decision to switch aisles and become a Republican, confirming news that had been broken by Axios Raleigh’s Lucille Sherman the previous day. 

During her press conference at the N.C. Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh Wednesday, Cotham said she had been considering this switch “for a long time,” despite running as a Democrat in her race to win District 112, a heavily Democratic district, just five months prior.

Cotham cited poor treatment from fellow Democrats in the General Assembly, in Mecklenburg County, on Twitter and in Target as reasons for her switch, claiming that she had recently been accosted by someone while shopping in the retail store with her children. 

The move was a big one, as it gives Republicans a super-majority in the state House, allowing them to pass laws without a single vote from Democrats and bypass any veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, leading many progressives to worry about the future of abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, access to health care, funding for education and any number of other issues the Republican Party now has full say over. 

Cotham’s former state House colleague Jeff Jackson, now a U.S. House representative for North Carolina’s 14th district, took to Twitter on Wednesday to express the devastating implications of Cotham’s announcement. 

“I can’t overstate the consequences of this switch,” Jackson wrote. “While we don’t know how she will vote on any given bill, dozens of bills that were essentially dead — from elections law changes to reproductive freedom to LGBTQ rights to education policy — may have just sprung back to life.

“And the state budget — which controls education funding — can now be passed entirely on the basis of Republican votes. This will likely have a major impact on funding for public education and teacher pay,” he continued. “I have never seen anything like this. This legislator was a long-time Democrat and had just been elected on a strongly Democratic platform in a district that votes Democratic by roughly 20 points. I am hearing from many of her constituents and they are in a state of shock.” 

Democratic Party leaders in Mecklenburg County and statewide called for Cotham’s resignation, alleging that she duped voters in District 112 — which covers Mint Hill and parts of east Charlotte into far-east Mecklenburg County — into voting based on her relatively progressive platform so as to gain a seat in the state House then switch to become a Republican. 

“This is deceit of the highest order,” wrote Mecklenburg County Democratic Party (MCDP) Chair Jane Whitley in a statement co-authored by North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton on Tuesday. “Rep. Cotham’s decision is a betrayal of the people in N.C. 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.” 

Whitley and Clayton both held press conferences following Cotham’s announcement on Wednesday — in east Charlotte and in Raleigh, respectively — at which party leaders called on Cotham to resign. 

A Black woman wearing sunglasses and a Black top speaks into the microphone at a podium set up outdoors while women behind her hold signs saying "Resign Tricia!" referring to Tricia Cotham
Dr. Yolanda Holmes, runner up against Tricia Cotham in the May primary election, joined the organization Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County in holding a press conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Cotham’s primary opponent, Yolanda Holmes, spoke at the MCDP press conference on Wednesday. Holmes lost the May 2022 Democratic primary in District 112 by 826 votes, coming in second to Cotham, who went on to beat Republican Tony Long by more than 4,600 votes. 

There is no recall law in North Carolina, so Cotham is expected to serve her full two-year term, which began in January. 

Despite seeming comfort with her new party at Wednesday morning’s press conference, however, local community leaders continue to call for Cotham’s voluntary resignation. 

“Rep. Tricia Cotham must resign. She lied to and deceived the voters who elected her only five months ago,” stated Rev. Ray Shawn McKinnon, pastor at Sacred Souls Community UCC. “In my faith tradition, today is the day when Judas betrayed Jesus; it seems a fitting day for Rep. Cotham to betray the voters of her district. This shameful action must not be tolerated and she should resign immediately.”

McKinnon will join local activist Kristie Puckett-Williams and other concerned voters in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday to continue the calls for Cotham’s resignation. 

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