Rumors began circulating around the legislative building in Raleigh yesterday, that a possible party switch in the North Carolina House was underway. Such a change could be significant, as it would give Republicans in that chamber a veto-proof supermajority. Later in the day, the rumors came to fruition, as it was announced that Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, would join the Republican Party and secure the 72 votes needed in the State House to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto.
Prior to the party switch, the House GOP held 71 seats in the 120-member chamber, where a vote by two-thirds of those present and voting (typically 72 votes) is needed to overcome the Governor’s veto stamp. Republicans in the State Senate already hold a veto-proof supermajority.
According to numerous news reports, the announcement of Cotham’s party switch brought strong rebukes from local and state Democratic Party leaders, including House Minority Leader Robert Reives and Governor Cooper. An article in the News & Observer Wednesday morning says Reives, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the North Carolina Democratic Party, the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party and Equality NC, the largest LGBTQ advocacy and political lobbying group, are among those calling for Cotham to resign.
Overall, however, it is uncertain exactly what Cotham’s party switch will mean when it comes to the consideration of conservative, pro-family policies. With major initiatives pending on abortion, human sexuality, parental rights, school choice, marijuana legalization, predatory gambling, and others, Cotham’s votes could make a monumental difference. Time will tell if this party change also brings with it a philosophical shift that manifests itself in how Cotham votes.
Cotham, along with two other House Democrats, were absent during a recent veto override vote in the NC House on a Second Amendment/gun rights bill. The absence of these three members affected the vote percentage and enabled the House GOP to successfully override the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 41.
You can watch Cotham’s explanation of her decision here.