North Carolina state representative flips parties, gives Republicans supermajority

State Rep. Tricia Cotham's switch gives Republicans veto override power.

April 5, 2023, 7:52 PM

North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham announced Wednesday she is switching parties, giving Republicans the supermajority needed to override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The freshman state representative, who said she was "welcomed with open arms by my [new Republican] colleagues," attributed the switch to Democrats' restrictions on the votes she cast.

"It became very clear to me early on in January that you better vote in line with everything Governor Cooper tells you to do," Cotham said. "From signing on to bills, to he wanted to pick your seat on the House floor, to your committee requests ... I will not be controlled by anyone."

Former Democratic consultant and current Duke University Prof. Pope "Mac" McCorkle says Cotham's switch is poised to give Republicans the power they need to implement many aspects of their agenda.

"Her becoming a Republican means by literally a party-line vote, all the commissions can be changed, all of that," McCorkle said. "So that's where I think it's real power."

One of the largest issues impacting North Carolina state politics this year is state legislature redistricting -- a process that started more than 18 months ago. Republicans are expected to present a new legislature map in the coming months.

McCorkle says Cotham's flip will not impact the redistricting debates because the maps only need the approval of the legislature.

"The governor does not a have a veto, so [Republicans] will already be able to pass the maps they want," McCorkle said.

Cotham's unexpected move comes during a time of political tension in the hotly contested swing state, where both chambers of the General Assembly are Republican-controlled even as a Democrat holds the governorship.

"Things are so tight, even when the Republicans have a super majority they're afraid of losing it," McCorkle said. He went on later to say "Everything is just frought with this incredible tension. But this just goes beyond the pale that a liberal legislator has flipped."

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Anderson Clayton called on Cotham to resign, according to ABC's Raleigh affiliate.

Her seat in the 112th district covers the eastern Charlotte suburbs, an area that voted heavily for President Joe Biden in 2020.

Cotham has a liberal record on some major issues, including abortion rights and state assistance programs. But one issue where she may stray from her former Democratic colleagues is school choice. Recent social media posts show her support for parents opting to use vouchers and send their children to schools outside their public school district -- a stance normally held by Republicans.

North Carolina House members serve two-year terms, meaning Cotham's district will have its next election in November of 2024. There is no process for recalling lawmakers under North Carolina state law.

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