There’s a conspiracy theory floating around Democratic circles that Tricia Cotham’s party switch was planned before she got into the race in 2022. Proponents of the theory cite contributions to her campaign by business oriented PACs. They believe she was a “Trojan horse,” elected with GOP support with the intention of switching parties all along. I think it’s bulls–t and makes the left look as unhinged as the right.
The evidence for the theory is almost all speculation and based on thin evidence and a poor understanding of both campaigns and how the legislature works. The claim is based on three premises. First, Tricia’s primary was funded by Republican-leaning PACs. Second, she reversed her positions too quickly to have made a party switch that fast. Finally, Tricia has close relationships with Republican members.
The PACs that funded Cotham’s campaign were business-oriented PACs who had relationships with her based her past tenure in the legislature. They were anesthesiologist and health care-related, realtors, Pork Council, and a handful of other business PACs. Business-oriented PACs are generally not ideological. They are transactional. They give to winners and those in power. They gave to Democrats when they led the legislature. They played in that primary based on personal relationships and an understanding that Cotham was more likely to support their agendas than a more progressive candidate. She was also more likely to win than her primary opponents.
Cotham received funding from big Democratic donors, too. That said, she didn’t raise that much money. Carolina Forward called it an “eye-popping” amount. It’s not even close. It’s a decent haul, especially when your opponents are essentially raising nothing, but plenty of contested legislative primaries have raised well over $100,000, some even over $200,000. In other words, where she got her money and the amount she raised offer no reasons to believe she was a Republican plant in a Democratic primary.
The other evidence cited is her quick shift from supporting solidly progressive policies to supporting, first, a GOP veto override by taking a walk on the vote, and, second, switching parties with what appear to be thin reasons. The more likely answer is that Tricia Cotham has never had any firmly held beliefs. She’s always been a legislator who likes attention and gets it by showing she’s a contrarian. She’s never had the political skills or intellectual heft to make it into the leadership so she’s responded by undermining them. If she’s in the GOP caucus long enough, she’ll do the same to them.
Finally, Cotham has always had relationships with Republicans, especially those in Mecklenburg County. She used to banter playfully on Twitter with several GOP legislators. She’s broken with Democrats several times since Republicans took control of the legislature. She’s cut deals behind the leadership’s back. That’s not evidence that she was planning to switch parties from the beginning.
Believing that Republicans played the long game by electing a Democrat they knew would switch gives too much credit to both the GOP and to Cotham. It also makes the left look as paranoid as the right. Tricia Cotham switched parties because she’s thin-skinned and self-centered. She has no firm political convictions and she just got the attention she craves. It’s just not that complicated.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. Republished from PoliticsNC.com.