How did daughter’s party switch impact Pat Cotham losing longtime Mecklenburg Commissioner seat?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Political experts said a mix of negative name recognition, malaise, and lingering issues over a controversial political party switch in 2023 led to a change in Mecklenburg County commissioner at-large seats.

Pat Cotham, a Democrat who has been on the county’s Board of Commissioners since 2012, placed fourth during Tuesday night’s primaries. Only the top three candidates move to the general election for the at-large seats.

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Cotham is the mother of State Rep. Tricia Cotham, whose party switch from Democrat to Republican in 2023 led to a veto-proof Republican majority in the General Assembly.

Jane Whitley, president of the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County, said voters’ anger was still palpable.

“The anger in the Democratic Party now can not be underestimated,” said Whitley. “And, yes, absolutely, I believe the fact that her name was the same as her daughter’s, that people came out and said ‘enough’.”

Cotham will remain in the at-large seat for the remainder of the year. There were no Republicans running for the at-large commissioner seats, meaning the top three candidates from Tuesday’s primary will advance to the Board.

Whitley said the woman who will now be in that seat, Yvette Townsend-Ingram, has the qualifications and has done the groundwork politically to be a force among Mecklenburg County leaders.

Leigh Altman and Arthur Griffin Jr. are already Mecklenburg County commissioners at-large, and placed first and second, respectively, in Tuesday’s primary.

Pat Cotham’s on-the-record comments about her daughter’s political party switch have been sparse since the announcement was made last April.

Coming off her loss Tuesday night, Pat Cotham told Queen City News, “I have been honored to serve the people of Mecklenburg County since 2012. I am proud to have been a voice for many who have no voice. Who will serve them in the future — that worries me.”

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“The people, the way they vote, they think about it,” said Whitley of Cotham’s statement. “They discuss it with their friends and they may run for office. That’s what Yvette Townsend-Ingram did, and she got more votes.”

At Wednesday night’ Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Cotham congratulated all of the members who won their races, including Townsend-Ingram.

“I had great conversation with her last night. I’m excited for her,” Cotham said. “She has a lot of ideas. I told her if she had any questions I’d be glad to answer to them. I supported her when she ran in 2022. I’m happy for her.”

Commissioner Leigh Altman encouraged Cotham for her remaining time in the position.

“We have a lot of great work yet to do,” she directed to her. “We still have nine months when we get to benefit from your voice. I look forward to the work we still have left to do.”

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