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Dem lawmaker abandons party, joins Republicans — and it has major implications for North Carolina politics

Image source: YouTube screenshot

North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham officially abandoned the Democratic Party on Wednesday and joined the Republican Party.

At a press conference, Cotham explained she switched parties because the Democratic Party "has become unrecognizable" and wants to "villainize anyone who has free thoughts."

"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," she said. "It became clear to me very early on in January that you better vote in line with what Gov. Cooper wants you to do."

Cotham said she believes it is her responsibility as a lawmaker to "learn everything I can, to ask questions, to hear perspectives before deciding how to vote." But Democrats are afraid of members who think independently, she claimed, because "they don't like what they can't control."

"I will not be controlled by anyone," Cotham declared.

NC State Rep. Tricia Cotham expected to announce a switch in political partieswww.youtube.com

Not only do North Carolina Democrats enforce a liberal echo chamber, but Cotham accused her former party of engaging in intimidation and bully tactics any time a member steps out of line.

The final straw for her, however, was when she was criticized for using the American flag and "praying hands" emojis on social media. She also alleged that her Democratic opponents have publicly accosted her and sent her children messages.

Cotham's abdication is particularly significant for North Carolina because it gives Republicans a supermajority in the North Carolina House of Representatives. That means Republicans now have the power to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vetos, because the state Senate is already veto-proof.

What did NC Democrats say?

The response from North Carolina Democrats perhaps underscores the attitude that Cotham highlighted.

The North Carolina Democratic Party, for example, called Cotham's decision "deceit of the highest order" and a "betrayal" of North Carolinians. The party demanded that she immediately resign.

State House Democratic Leader Robert Reives echoed the demand for Cotham's resignation. He said it is the "appropriate action" because Cotham "campaigned as a Democrat and supporter of abortion rights, health care, public education, gun safety, and civil rights."

Gov. Cooper, meanwhile, issued a more measured statement.

"This is a disappointing decision," 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."

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