RALEIGH — Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County announced on Wednesday morning she was officially joining the Republican Party in a press conference flanked by Republican legislators.
First appointed to a state House seat to replace former Speaker Jim Black by Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, Cotham signaled she would “play fair” in her tenure in Raleigh.
Serving in her second stint in the N.C. House of Representatives, Cotham had been elevated by Republicans – one of three Democrats at the time given committee chair gavels – and has been increasingly isolated by her former party.
In her remarks, Cotham said she was a “single mom, small business owner, teacher, public servant, and today I add Republican to that list,” to raucous applause.
She detailed a lengthy list of times she had been attacked by members of her party and interest groups aligned with Democrats: saying she was yelled at while shopping with her son in Target, frozen out of the Democratic caucus since her election in November 2022 and messages being sent directly to her 12 year-old son on social media.
“If you don’t do exactly what they want to do they’ll bully you and cast you aside,” she said. “I’ve suffered many attacks from those in the party, going after my family, my children – that is wrong and I will not stand for that. They picked on the wrong chick.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) introduced Cotham at the press conference joking that the news, which became public on Tuesday, was “the worst-kept secret in Raleigh.”
He commended Cotham as being one of the most bipartisan members of the legislature and welcomed her to what he called “the big tent party with members across the ideological spectrum.”
“The party here represents the values and views of North Carolina,” said Moore, also adding that Cotham was not the only Democrat in which they have had conversations with about a potential move.
U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (NC-08) also spoke at the event. He quipped that an ill-advised game of pickleball resulted in his torn achilles, but “it would take a lot more than that to keep me from being here today.”
Bishop called Cotham a longtime friend and wanted to be part of the announcement as a vote of confidence for someone who keeps her priorities in the right order.
Taking questions from members of the media, Cotham did not address several questions related to abortion, noting that there was no legislation at the present time requiring a vote.
Addressing the timeline of the announcement, she detailed how Democratic leaders didn’t want her to run for the seat she holds in 2022 and how, since her election, she was treated by party leaders. Cotham said Minority Leader Robert Reives (D-Chatham) refused to speak with her and labeled her a freshman despite her numerous years of service from 2009-2016 in the House.
At the first Democratic House caucus meeting Cotham said she did what she usually had before: bringing cookies, snacks and drinks for the members. She was shunned and called a traitor and a spy for being given a gavel as a co-chair and was tracked with what she termed a “shadow chair” from the party.
Cotham added that she would not be told what color to wear on certain days or “fashion policed by Democratic women.”
“I started praying on this issue and reflecting. I do this all on my own then I’ll tell others. I have not changed overnight. Some people just can’t accept a bold, strong woman who is an independent thinking and I”m happy to stand on these high heels on that,” she added.
Welcoming Cotham on behalf of Senate Republicans, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said she was there (at NCGOP headquarters) because she didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the party left her. He noted that Democrats in the state have lost members in ways that are historic in nature.
“The party seems to value ideological purity and adherence to what ‘superior individuals’ think as the right way to think,” said Berger. After reading some of the comments on Twitter, I wouldn’t want to be associated with those people either.”