By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
April 7, 2023
North Carolina House Republicans gained a veto-proof supermajority this week when Rep. Tricia Cotham changed her affiliation from Democrat to Republican, saying her former party no longer represents her beliefs and that she wants to be a member of a “big tent.”
House Republicans now control 72 of the 120 seats in the chamber, the exact number needed to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Prior to Cotham’s switch, the GOP was one vote shy. Republicans already had a veto-proof majority in the Senate.
“The modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me and to so many others throughout this state and this country,” Cotham said at a news conference backed by GOP leaders, including House Speaker Tim Moore.
Cotham switched parties, she said, because she wants the freedom to vote her conscience and because she wants to “get things done” for the people of North Carolina.
“If you don’t do exactly what the Democrats want you to do, they will try to bully you, they will try to cast you aside,” Cotham said.
She previously served a decade in the state House before opting not to run for re-election and falling short in a bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016. In 2022, she ran again for the state House and won.
“When I came back to this legislature, I knew times were different, and things had changed,” she said. “I also knew that I was different.”
The political situation in Raleigh, she said, had changed more than she envisioned.
“It became very clear to me early on in January that you better bow in line with everything Gov. Cooper tells you to do,” she said before adding: “I will not be controlled by anyone.”
“I have always been a free thinker, a woman of faith, a person of independent judgment and of common sense,” she said. “I have always tried to work across the aisle from day one. And I’m proud of that work. Because that means we are working together as statesmen and stateswomen. Unfortunately, that is tough in the Democratic Party.”
It is not known how Cotham’s switch will impact House debate on the issue of abortion. During her previous service in the House, she sided with pro-choices. Asked about her position on abortion this week, she said, “I’m not going to be pigeonholed into any one particular issue.”
She said she is the “same person.”
Cotham indicated she sides with Republicans on school choice.
“I believe that the state is changing, especially after what they saw and experienced firsthand in their home with COVID and learning,” she said. “One-size-fits-all in education is wrong for children.”
Meanwhile, Cotham said a “turning point” for her in switching parties was “when I was criticized for using the American flag and the praying hands emoji on all my social media platforms, and even on the back of different vehicles that I have.”
“I am proud to be an American,” she said. “I am proud of our country. I’m proud of the men and women in my family who have served.
She asked: “When did Democrats become so afraid of independent thought?”
Moore, the House speaker, said Republicans promote a big tent philosophy to politics.
“One of the things that we pride ourselves on as Republicans is that we always tell our caucus members: Vote your conscience, vote your district, and then vote with your caucus,” Moore said. “We understand that having a big tent, with ideas across the spectrum is what makes not just a party healthy, but it’s what makes governing effective, because North Carolina is that way.”
Moore said he began wondering about Cotham’s commitment to the Democratic Party in recent weeks.
“As I was talking with Representative Cotham, I got a sense that she was unhappy and felt like she maybe was having to vote against her conscience in a lot of ways,” Moore said.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the switch by Cotham is significant.
“Democrats are railing against Rep. Cotham’s decision to switch parties. Some are demanding she give back her campaign contributions from the Democratic Party,” Creech said. “But our Democrat friends have a bigger problem which they are not acknowledging. It is hypocritical for them to portray themselves as the party of diversity and pro-woman and then bully one of their own — telling her she must always vote the way the governor instructs, telling her she must think as they think, threatening her if she dares to vote her conscience.
“Whatever happened to all that talk about the independent woman?” Creech asked. “Whatever happened to genuine diversity? Of all the many things Jesus spoke about most harshly was the sin of hypocrisy. I think it’s something all of us should take personal inventory about.”