RALEIGH, N.C. — It's been years since Mecklenburg County's Tricia Ann Cotham sat in the seat of a North Carolina state representative.
Cotham, a Democrat, served in the General Assembly from 2007 to 2016. She left when her oldest son was about to start kindergarten. Now, she's back as a representative and hitting the ground running.
"I've worked many late nights trying to get things set up but also really do homework, to really look at issues that happened when I wasn't here and to catch up as much as possible, so I could be the most effective from day one," Cotham said.
This wasn't where Cotham expected to be. She was battling COVID-19 when she got a call before the election asking her to run again.
"It really changed what I was battling, because I was really, really sick. But this gave me a whole new fight for wanting to get better, wanting to get healthier," Cotham said. "I feel like it really just saved me.”
She won her seat in the 2022 midterm elections and was sworn in in January.
Her experience and reputation for working across the aisle gained her an additional title. She is one of the chairs of the House Education K-12 Committee.
She is one of the few Democrats given a gavel this session.
With the House one vote shy of a Republican super-majority, some speculate why House Speaker Tim Moore gave the chair positions to Democrats.
Cotham isn't letting that speculation get to her or her work.
“I stand strongly on my record for working with Republicans and Democrats and all different types of organizations. Does that make me a target? How are they defining what target is? Because I'm practical and results-oriented?" Cotham said. "I would never commit a vote to anything that I don't know what it's about or it's not in writing hasn't come through these chambers at all. So, I mean, that's just being a good legislator.”
She's no stranger to the buildings on Jones Street or the Education Committee. She was also a chair the first time she served in the legislature. As a former educator, she says she's ready to get to work.
"We can't keep doing the same thing over and over and complain when we get the same result. And so if that makes me different than everybody else, I have a hard time with that, because in the real world and the business world, that's what companies are doing all the time,” Cotham said.
Democratic Reps. Shelly Willingham, Michael Wray and Garland Pierce are also chairs of House committees this session.