In a shocking move, North Carolina State Representative Tricia Cotham, elected as a Democrat, is teaching her constituents how an elected representative changing party affiliations can flip the balance of power fast, especially in a state that’s purple enough to go either way, putting women’s health and other freedoms at risk.
After their prior governor Pat McCrory passed anti-transgender legislation that cost the state business and respect, the voters selected a Democrat, Roy Cooper, to govern in 2016, at the same time a majority threw their support behind Donald Trump, re-upping both choices in 2020.
However, at the same time, they placed a Republican majority in the legislature, creating a balance where neither major party could force through anything without at least a little bipartisan support.
Between the genuine partisan split and gerrymandering, Republicans had almost a veto-proof majority in both House and Senate after the 2022 elections.
Cotham is the Democrat District 112 sent to represent them the state legislature — and now, she’s pulling a reversal, announcing that she’ll be leaving the party, and ripping veto power away from the Governor.
Republicans in the state have sent dozens of partisan bills to Governor Cooper to veto.
Now, when he does so, the legislature will have the power to override him and pass the bill without his consent, all hinging on one individual who told her constituents she’d represent them as a Democrat, then revealed otherwise after taking her seat. From the New York Times:
“As of Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Cotham had not spoken to Democratic colleagues about her plans, nor had she contacted State Representative Robert Reives, the party’s leader in the House, he said in an interview. But by the afternoon legislative session on Tuesday, Ms. Cotham was seated on the Republican side of the chamber, with aides having cleaned her desk on the Democratic side.”
Until today, Democrats had enough votes to sustain the Governor’s veto – but only by a margin of one vote in the NC House. With this switch, Republicans now have a supermajority in both chambers, which means they have the votes to override any veto – which effectively just gave them full control of state government for the first time since 2017. I can’t overstate the policy consequences of this single switch. While we don’t know how she will vote on any given bill, dozens of bills that were essentially dead – from elections law changes to reproductive freedom to LGBTQ rights to education policy – may have just sprung back to life. And the state budget – which controls education funding – can now be passed entirely on the basis of Republican votes.