Opinion: One Year Since Tricia Cotham Switched Parties and the Path Forward

(AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum, File)

By Charles DeLoach

April 5, 2024

On April 6, 2023, North Carolina State House Representative Tricia Cotham made a decision that would impact the lives of millions of North Carolinians and citizens beyond our state: she was switching parties from Democrat to Republican. Since then, Cotham has consistently claimed that Democrats are to blame for the way she betrayed her constituents. According to Cotham, Democrats pushed her out of the party by not allowing “free thought.”

This claim is worth examining, particularly when members of the GOP’s conference include representatives like Ted Davis of Wilmington. During a live-streamed debate ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when Davis was asked if he would further restrict abortion if re-elected, he proudly claimed “the speaker does not tell me what to do.” Davis continued on about how he’s an independent legislator and said he “would vote to keep [the abortion law] just the way it is.”

Of course, when it came time to vote on abortion restrictions, Davis voted the party line despite his promise not to. You could practically hear him asking “how high?” all the way from Wilmington when House Speaker Tim Moore told him to jump. So, if Cotham wasn’t attracted by the lack of free thinking amongst the Republican conference, was it maybe that she had actually been conservative the whole time?

If so, she hid it well. Cotham had been active in Democratic politics for about a decade. Just about five months before she betrayed her constituents and gave Republicans a super-majority they didn’t earn, Cotham had been re-elected to the State House as a Democrat who ran on supporting public education, gun safety, and abortion rights. She won in a heavily Democratic district with a roughly 20-point margin and even co-sponsored a bill to codify Roe v. Wade in late January 2023.

It wasn’t until she switched parties that we would see just how shallow her beliefs were. Cotham cast the deciding vote to override Governor Cooper’s veto on laws that weakened gun safety, took money away from public schools, and of course, restricted abortion.

Based on just how abrupt her 180 was, it’s hard to believe that Cotham holds any real policy beliefs at all, so what was the real reason for her lying to her voters? The most extensive reporting on the topic to date suggests that Cotham was simply upset that she wasn’t getting enough praise and attention.

After running for Congress and losing handily, she felt snubbed when she wasn’t chosen for an award for Democratic women. Well, if Cotham wanted attention, she found it, and she certainly has gotten heaps of praise from Republican circles. But betrayal is a hard record to run on, and the freshly gerrymandered district she’s running in may not be enough to save her from herself.

Thankfully, Democrats have found a true advocate to send Cotham home from Raleigh. Nicole Sidman is an attorney who has worked on civil rights issues, a mother who has served as president of her PTA, a former campaign manager for former state Rep. and current Mayor of Huntersville Christy Clark, an employee of Temple Beth El here in Charlotte, and an advocate who has raised significant funds to help fight cancer.

Sidman’s experience has prepared her to actually serve the people of District 105 and she’s been doing the hard work of campaigning. Since getting in the race, Sidman has gone door to door to talk to voters and proudly advocated for her policy goals. Meanwhile, it’s unclear if Cotham has done any campaigning beyond occasionally tweeting “Happy Monday.”

What I find particularly reassuring about Sidman’s candidacy is her dedication to earning voters’ trust when many, understandably, feel skeptical of politicians. Whether Democrats break the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly could very well come down to this race, so it’s not only important that Democrats win, but that the right candidate wins. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Nicole over the last several months, and if you’re reading this, I want you to know: Nicole Sidman is the right candidate. She is dedicated, humble, and knowledgeable. She takes the time to listen to voters, and when she wins, she has pledged to hold constituent forums, so the North Carolinians in District 105 can come and ask her questions or share their ideas.

On the one-year anniversary of Cotham’s betrayal, Sidman will be joined by state party chair Anderson Clayton for a volunteer event to spread the word about the opportunity we have to flip this seat blue, break the supermajority, and send Tricia Cotham home from Raleigh. I’ll be supporting Sidman throughout this campaign, and I hope you’ll join me, because voters deserve a representative that will listen to them, they deserve a candidate they can trust, they deserve better than Tricia Cotham.

Author

  • Charles DeLoach

    Charles DeLoach grew up in Wilmington North Carolina, went to college at Chapman University, and graduated from UNC Law with Honors in May of 2023. He now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Caroline where he works as an attorney. Charles serves as the Communications Committee Chair for the Mecklenburg County Democrats and as Vice President of the Mecklenburg County Young Democrats.

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