Renee C. Scheidt: Almost like a divorce — Cotham upsets the political fruit basket

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023

For the first time in a long time, North Carolina Republicans are saying “Welcome to the Party!” Why? Because Tricia Cotham, a recently elected Democrat to the N.C. House, announced her decision to join the ranks of the Grand Old Party.

Cotham previously served in the NC House from 2007 to 2016. Yet within three months of returning to Raleigh, she made a bold decision to change parties that sent shock waves across the nation. State Republicans, who were just one vote shy of having a supermajority, now have the needed votes to override Gov. Roy  Cooper’s vetoes. Since he has repeatedly refused to work with the Legislature, vetoing a record high of 65 bills, perhaps we can now get something done for North Carolianians!

Changing political parties is not something to be taken lightly, especially in light of how severely divided the two parties are. Cotham’s choice to upset the fruit basket is almost like a divorce. Not since the Civil War era have the two parties been so severely divided. Obviously, Representative Cotham knew this. Coming from a family of Democrats elected to office must have made her pivotal decision even more difficult. But once she personally experienced the wrath of her fellow Democrats, she had had enough. And she minced no words in revealing how cruelly her own party treated her.

In her press release, she stated, “This has been something I have considered for a very long time. I have seen the Democratic Party change tremendously. When I came here and when I campaigned to be here, I really believed I could make change in the Democratic Party … The modern day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me… The party wants to villainize anyone who has free thought, free judgment, has solutions and wants to get to work to better our state. … 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. I was considered a traitor.  I was told I was a spy. Please don’t come to caucus. You’ll tell everything we know. That is a terrible mentality, and that’s just wrong. … I realized on day one I was not welcomed and that they did not want me here. And that was very hard and I still kept trying,” Cotham added.

“I’ve suffered many attacks since I’ve been up here from Democrats in the party, from blasting me on Twitter, to calling me names, to going after my family, going after my children,” she said. “They certainly will slice and dice you in a second with malicious, vicious, untrue rumors and do not celebrate your success.”

Most major media refused to cover the vicious behavior of the N.C. Democrats toward her. Fox News, however, reported, “I caught a lot of flack over the fact that on my car and various things I display the American flag — that I talk a lot about my belief and faith and I’ve used Jesus several times when I’ve led our chamber in House prayer.”

She went on to say even the clothes she wore were criticized: “I’ve been told you can never trust a Democrat who wears camo.”

U.S. Congressman Dan Bishop who has known Cotham for years and considers her a friend, despite their disagreements, had this to say, “We probably still will have disagreements from time to time. But this latest development in which … a major party cannot abide dissenters, even on particular issues within its ranks, is something that is bad for America.”

Truth well spoken. I can’t help but wonder if North Carolina Democrats treat one of their own so heartlessly, how do you expect them to treat members of the opposite party? That’s certainly no way to take care of business for the American people they supposedly represent.

Cotham is not the first to see the light. There are a few brave former Democratic members, including myself, who have also walked away because they refuse to be controlled. Ronald Reagan put it best when he stated, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.”

So to Cotham and all those other disenfranchised Democrats, I say, “Welcome to the party. Come on in. I think you’ll find the water’s fine!”

Renee C. Scheidt lives in Salisbury.