WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Former Wilmington Mayor Harper Peterson narrowly defeated incumbent State Senator Michael Lee Tuesday night, flipping a highly contested race to the Democrat Party in North Carolina.
With all 43 precincts reporting, Peterson won the District 9 Senate seat by 38 votes, with 41,626 votes to Lee’s 41,588. The final totals are subject to a canvass in the coming days and a potential request for a recount.
Peterson, who served as Wilmington Mayor from 2001-03, re-entered politics in the last year with the emerging issue of the concern over water quality after the disclosure of the unregulated compound GenX in much of the drinking water supply in this region.
The race between Peterson and Lee was heated, with supporters on both sides airing negative ads against each other.
“This is a sweet victory, because now at the state level I will be able to work with local elected officials to represent your concerns and values and interests,” Harper Peterson said to a boisterous crowd of supporters Tuesday night.
The race between Lee and Peterson became heated in the waning days of the 2018 election cycle. Just a little more than a week before Election Day, two Wilmington residents filed a formal ethics complaint over Lee’s work as an attorney for developers.
Lee denied the allegations, but instead of elaborating on his career in law, made references to Peterson’s time as Wilmington’s mayor and city council member.
The race was an expensive one for both sides, with the state Democrat Party contributing more than $300,000 to the Peterson campaign in recent months.