Apr 4, 2023 - News

NC Democrat expected to change parties

Illustration of a combination of the Republican elephant and Democrat donkey merged.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A North Carolina Democratic lawmaker is expected to flip her party affiliation, multiple Republicans with knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

  • The move would cement Republicans' toe-hold in a fast-changing swing state, handing them a veto-proof majority in the middle of the legislative session and a clear runway to enact their agenda despite opposition from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Driving the news: Republicans, who are currently just one seat short of a supermajority in the legislature, have been hoping that state Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Democrat from Charlotte, might switch parties at some point this session, but the prospect began to seem more realistic last week, a Republican House member said.

  • Cotham is expected to announce her decision Wednesday. House Republicans announced a 9am press conference Tuesday for a "major announcement."

Why it matters: Republicans have held majorities in both the state House and the Senate for more than a decade, but in recent years, the threat of Cooper's veto has kept the party's power in check.

  • A supermajority could free up party leaders to more easily push long-hoped-for legislation restricting abortion and all but eliminate their need to compromise with the governor on the budget, changes to election laws and education reform.
State Rep. Tricia Cotham. Photo: North Carolina General Assembly

Details: Cotham didn't respond to Axios' request for comment, so it's not clear what's driving her consideration to switch.

  • One possible factor, though, is that Cotham recently skipped a vote to override Cooper's veto of Republican-sponsored legislation relaxing some gun laws, handing Republicans the votes they needed to usher the bill into law.
  • That set into motion a cascade of blowback against Cotham, driven by Democrats criticizing her for not showing.

What they're saying: Rep. Cecil Brockman, who is also a moderate Democrat, told the News & Observer he doesn't blame Cotham and said he thought the reaction from Democrats drove her to switch parties.

  • "I think she just wanted to do what's best for her district and when you're constantly talked about and trashed — especially the way that we have been over the past few weeks — I think this is what happens," Brockman said.
  • Democratic House minority leader Rep. Robert Reives called for Cotham to resign in a press release Tuesday afternoon.

This story has been updated to include responses from Democratic lawmakers.


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