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North Carolina state legislator switches parties, handing GOP veto-proof majorities

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said state Rep. Tricia Cotham's decision to become a Republican was “disappointing.”

WASHINGTON — A North Carolina legislator announced Wednesday that she has switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, giving the GOP a veto-proof majority in the state House.

State Rep. Tricia Cotham made the announcement during a news conference at Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh with North Carolina GOP leaders, who celebrated her decision.

"I have decided to change my party affiliation, joining the Republican Party, and have been welcomed with open arms," Cotham said, adding that the "modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me."

"The party wants to villainize anyone who has free thought, free judgment, has solutions, who wants to get to work to better our state, not just sit in a meeting and have a workshop after a workshop," she said. "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."

Her party switch, which was first reported by Axios, brings the number of seats held by Republicans in the state House to 72, handing them a veto-proof majority in the chamber. Republicans were already in control of enough seats in the Senate to override vetoes in the scenario that all members are voting.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel welcomed Cotham to the party.

“Even in a Biden district in a purple state, Democrats are reading the writing on the wall: liberal policies are too extreme and they’re failing Americans. Ahead of 2024, Republican momentum is growing," she said in a statement.

Cotham was elected last November as a Democrat after she previously served for 10 years in the House, from 2007 to 2017. Her campaign website showcases stances typically held by Democrats, including being a champion of LGBTQ+ rights and expanding voting rights.

Democrats lashed out at Cotham over her decision, with many calling on her to resign.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement that Cotham's decision was "disappointing." He said: "Rep. Cotham’s votes on women’s reproductive freedom, election laws, LGBTQ rights and strong public schools will determine the direction of the state we love. It’s hard to believe she would abandon these long held principles and she should still vote the way she has always said she would vote when these issues arise, regardless of party affiliation."

In a joint statement, North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton and Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair Jane Whitley called Cotham’s move “deceit of the highest order.”

“Rep. Cotham’s decision is a betrayal to the people of HD-112 with repercussions not only for the people of her district, but for the entire state of North Carolina,” they said. “If she can no longer represent the values her constituents trusted her to champion, she should resign immediately.”

Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, asked Cotham to resign and noted that President Joe Biden had won her district by a wide margin in 2020.

"This absolute betrayal of her voters will have massive implications for abortion rights, voting rights, & more. NC was already on our target map — breaking this supermajority is a top priority for us," Post tweeted.

Equality NC, an LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group, echoed calls for her resignation, saying in a statement that Cotham has "betrayed" the values for which the group had originally endorsed her.