Rachel Lewis Hilburn

CoastLine Host, Senior Reporter

Rachel hosts WHQR's local public affairs show, CoastLine, which she helped to create.  She also reports on issues affecting southeastern North Carolina.  Before joining WHQR, Rachel wrote and produced local TV newscasts for the Wilmington ABC-TV affiliate. She also wrote and produced a 30-minute TV special program for the Cape Fear Museum showcasing its renovation and new exhibits, and she independently wrote and produced a documentary on the lingering effects of the 1898 coup d'etat in Wilmington.   

Ways to Connect

It’s a special holiday edition of CoastLine with two original stories of the season.  

Zelda Lockhart is a Visiting Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.  She is the 2010 winner of the Piedmont Laureate for Literature.   And she is the author of three novels, including Fifth Born and Fifth Born 2:  The Hundredth Turtle.

Ricky Meeks

Sheila Boles played for the first women’s basketball team at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.  She won the first women’s basketball scholarship the next year, and she became the team’s first MVP. 


The recent Covid-19 spike in North Carolina has state officials using words such as “dire”, “alarming”, “shocking”, “life and death”, and “upon us with a rapid viciousness.”  80% of counties in the state are now coded orange and red. 

The debate over reparations for African-Americans, descendants of those brought to the United States as enslaved people, has existed since the very end of the Civil War.  It’s taken various forms ranging from the idea of 40 acres and a mule to monetary payments.  But from 1861 to 2020, the idea has never gained serious traction in state legislatures or on Capitol Hill. 


As the number of people hospitalized in North Carolina hits a record high for the fourth day in a row, state officials are rolling out their plan for distribution of the Covid vaccine.  

During the pandemic of 2020, parents are working from home, many people have lost their jobs, and business owners and employees are wondering how they’ll get their financial heads above water again.  Anxiety about venturing out plagues those who are more vulnerable, and those who are vigilant about mask-wearing are bothered by those who are not.  

Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at concerning levels across North Carolina.  For that reason, Governor Roy Cooper is extending restrictions on gatherings and tightening requirements on mask-wearing.  And as Pender County becomes one of 21 counties with substantial community spread, state officials hope local governments will follow Greensboro’s example. 


North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says DuPont company officials have known for four decades that its chemicals are harmful to humans.  The allegation is part of a lawsuit filed last month by the state Department of Justice.  

Vince Winkel

PFAS, a class of manmade chemicals in the drinking water supply of the Cape Fear region, are unregulated, likely carcinogenic and otherwise toxic to humans, and are still entering the air and water in southeastern North Carolina. 

Same Page Pictures

Two filmmakers from the Cape Fear region will get to see their first full-length feature film on the big screen for the first time Saturday night.  It’s part of the 2020 Cucalorus Film Festival, and as WHQR learned, Drought was born in a series of downpours.

More than a week has passed since the 2020 Election.  President-Elect Joe Biden is moving forward with his transition plans, key Republican leaders are quiet, and there are questions about whether the American public is as divided as it’s ever been.  In North Carolina, Republicans head into the next legislative session with an as-yet unofficial 70-50 majority in the House and a 29-21 majority in the Senate. 


Covid-19 cases in North Carolina are still rising.  But state health officials say because of early precautions, the state is not seeing a huge spike nor are hospitals overloaded.  But state health officials are worried about the upcoming holidays.    

North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District has re-elected Republican Congressman David Rouzer for a fourth term.   The former state Senator handily defeated his Democratic challenger. 

North Carolina House District 20 is a new district with a new incumbent – as Republican representative Ted Davis, Junior moves from District 19 to 20. 

North Carolina’s House District 18 will keep its Democratic Incumbent.  Representative Deb Butler embarks on a third term with a nearly 20-point margin.  

 North Carolina Senate District 9, which covers most of New Hanover County, saw former Republican incumbent Michael Lee edge out the current Democratic incumbent Harper Peterson. 


One of Wilmington’s major arteries, Market Street, is named for an antebellum slave market.  Bedford Forest Drive in Wilmington honors Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  That street is intersected by Robert E. Lee  Drive.  

Ben Schachtman and Rachel Lewis Hilburn unpack the dynamics that are shaping the 2020 Election in North Carolina and the Cape Fear region -- including a look at the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision extending the deadline for absentee ballots, how super PACs are trying to influence some races, who all these unaffiliated voters might be, and why politics is so divergent from policy-making.  

  North Carolina’s Senate District 9 is a re-match of 2018.  Michael Lee is challenging incumbent Harper Peterson – who edged Lee out of the same Senate seat two years ago by only 231 votes.  WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn spoke with both of them as part of the 2020 CoastLine Candidate Interviews.

New Hanover County’s Board of Commission has three of five seats open this year.  

Jonathan Barfield is the only incumbent  running for re-election, while Commissioners Pat Kusek and Woody White are not.  As part of the 2020 CoastLine Candidate Interviews, WHQR spoke with all six of the candidates.  Here are excerpts from interviews with three of them.

Early voting is underway in North Carolina and runs through October 31st.  More than half of the seats on New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners, three of the five, are open this year. 

WHQR / Katelyn Freund

North Carolina’s Congressional District map has faced criticism for years.  In 2018, a federal court declared it unconstitutional and gerrymandered to favor Republican candidates.  

Two productions – a horror film and a crime drama series -- are currently shooting in the Cape Fear region.  Another TV pilot is in pre-production, and five projects recently wrapped.

WHQR / Katelyn Freund

North Carolina’s House District 20 has new boundaries in time for the 2020 elections.  What used to be a district that included northern New Hanover County is now a smaller area and no longer includes Kure Beach or Carolina Beach.  

North Carolina Senate District 8 includes the whole of Brunswick, Bladen, and Pender Counties.  But this year, there’s another piece added to the district – a very small slice of New Hanover County’s northernmost part. 

North Carolina’s House District 18, redrawn for the 2020 elections, no longer includes any part of Brunswick County.  It’s now strictly a northern New Hanover County territory with more unaffiliated voters than those registered as Democrats or Republicans. 


Novant Health is set to become the new owner of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.  At Monday night’s county commission meeting, four of the five board members voted to approve the sale of the county’s largest asset, and to create a private community foundation to manage the proceeds.

North Carolina’s House District 19, redrawn for the 2020 elections, now includes a southern portion of Brunswick County – in addition to the southernmost part of New Hanover County.  It’s a district that has, for the last four-and-a-half terms, been served by Representative Ted Davis, Junior. 


Monday night, New Hanover County Commissioners decide the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.  Since Commissioners announced the potential sale more than a year ago, opponents have argued the county should not let go of its single most valuable asset or control of local healthcare.