Sunday, February 25, 2024

NHC judge rules against Sen. Michael Lee’s request to remove opponent’s political ad

Marcia Morgan’s ad, “Serving Others” accuses her opponent Michael Lee of using his position for personal gain and helping local developers through his law firm.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A North Carolina representative’s attempt to have an alleged defamatory ad immediately removed was denied by a New Hanover County judge on Thursday. 

Earlier this week, N.C. District 7 representative Michael Lee filed a complaint claiming opponent Marcia Morgan’s ad, “Serving Others,” accuses Lee, along with his law firm Lee and Kaess, of criminal and unethical activity.

READ MORE: Lee sues N.C. Senate race opponent over alleged defamatory ad

However, Judge Phyllis Gorham decided to not force candidate Marcia Morgan to take down her political television ad. The lawsuit will still proceed to trial, but Gorham did not grant Lee an immediate injunction he requested.

The ad, released at the end of September, states:

“As a former teacher and Army colonel, I’ve always been focused on serving others. That’s how it should be for leaders in Raleigh. But Michael Lee doesn’t see it that way. Lee used his political position to serve real estate clients. Lee got rezoning and special use permits for big developers against the advice of city planners, sticking us with overdevelopment, higher living costs and more traffic. That’s not leadership. That’s self-interest. When I get to Raleigh, I’ll never pander to greedy special interests.”

In response, Lee stated in a press release he was “disappointed” with the judge’s determination.

“I remain confident that justice will ultimately prevail, both in the lawsuit against Marcia Morgan for her defamatory attack ad against me and a Wilmington small business and in the poll booths on Election Day when the voters of New Hanover County reject Morgan’s radical and dangerous positions,” Lee said.

Lee and his legal representation from Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard LLP, also filed cease and desist letters to WECT, WSFX and WWAY. The mailings ask the stations to immediately stop airing the political ads. 

Morgan released a statement Monday, in response to Lee’s suit, saying she would stand by her decision to run the ad. Yet, her attorney told the judge the candidate would voluntarily remove it and discontinue airing it as of Thursday.

“I am pleased that the court has seen Mr. Lee’s request for an injunction for what it is, a political stunt,” Morgan’s campaign released Thursday. “While he may not want the facts out there, the voters of New Hanover County deserve to know who is representing them in Raleigh when they go to the polls next month. I stand behind the facts of my ad and look forward to defending those facts in court as this lawsuit moves through the legal channels.”

A request to Marcia Morgan and her campaign about why she chose to voluntarily remove the commercial went unanswered to Port City Daily.

Lee and Kaess law firm specifically handles land-use issues, such as zoning and commercial real estate. Morgan’s ad targets two specific instances where she claims Lee “used his profession for personal gain,” namely when he represented The Avenue and The Landing at Lewis Creek Estates.

“The ‘lie and buy airtime’ scheme that Marcia Morgan is perpetrating, cravenly lying to voters to win an election, has to stop,” Sen. Lee said in a press release. “New Hanover County residents have had enough of this type of campaigning from Marcia Morgan and politicians like her. She crossed the line, and we cannot let her get away with it.”

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