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Marcia Morgan will step into State Senate District 7 race against incumbent Michael Lee

Retired Army Colonel Marcia Morgan will run for the NC State Senate District 7 seat in 2022.
Retired Army Colonel Marcia Morgan will run for the NC State Senate District 7 seat in 2022.

The New Hanover County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee chose Marcia Morgan, an openly gay, retired Army Colonel and former educator, to challenge incumbent Republican Michael Lee. Morgan replaces Jason Minnicozzi, who stepped away from the race citing campaign finance shortfalls – after being accused of harassment.

On Friday evening, Marcia Morgan accepted the Democratic nomination to run for North Carolina Senate District 7. Morgan served in the U.S. Army for 25 years, retiring with the rank of Colonel before returning to work for the Pentagon as a contractor. She previously ran for the North Carolina House in District 19, challenging State Representative Ted Davis in 2018 and Representative Charlie Miller in 2020.

Morgan steps into the state race after candidate Jason Minnicozzi, a former Brunswick County prosecutor and current New Hanover County public defender, stepped down from the campaign. Minnicozzi released a statement indicating he lacked the financial horsepower to compete against an expected onslaught of Republican attack ads. However, the move came just days after public allegations that he had used his position as a court official to proposition a young woman he had seen in court testifying against an abusive ex. Minnicozzi declined to address the allegations, but North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) Chair Bobbie Richardson acknowledged them, writing in a statement that, “[h]arassment of any kind cannot be tolerated.”

Related: Accused of predatory abuse of power, state senate candidate Jason Minnicozzi withdraws, blaming financial issues

“Marcia couldn’t enter this race at a more critical time and we are thrilled to have her in this fight with us. Her military service provides the foundation of leadership that is badly needed in Raleigh and that is why New Hanover can count on her to work across the aisle to accomplish the missions most important to North Carolinians like lowering costs and expanding access to health care,” Richardson said of Morgan’s nomination in a statement.

Morgan, who launched a campaign website following the announcement, also issued a statement, saying, “I am honored to have earned the support of Democrats in New Hanover County. With so much on the ballot this year, it's critical that we, as Democrats, come together and fight like never before for our values. I will be working hard to earn the votes of the people of Senate District 7 so that I can serve you in Raleigh."

The New Hanover County Republican Party was quick to disparage Morgan’s chances against Lee, releasing a statement that read in part, “This marks the third candidate that has announced their intention to run against Senator Michael Lee this year. Coincidentally, this is Ms. Morgan’s third run for political office. Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in from out of state to her previous campaigns, she was unsuccessful, and we expect this time to be no different. For Ms. Morgan and Governor Cooper, the third time will not be the charm.”

District 7, formerly District 9, has been hotly contested for years. Incumbent Michael Lee was first appointed to the seat to replace Thom Goolsby and defeated Democratic challenger Andrew Barnhill in 2016. In 2018, Democratic challenger Harper Peterson, a former Wilmington mayor, defeated Lee in a close race that saw major campaign spending by both parties. Two years later, Lee defeated Peterson in a rematch that again saw major investments from both parties.

The District 7 race is considered highly competitive, but gerrymandering in the latest Republican-drawn state election maps will make it more difficult for a Democratic candidate to succeed; the map takes four heavily Democratic precincts from downtown Wilmington and assigns them to Bill Rabon’s thoroughly red District 8, which can easily absorb the additional blue votes.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.