NC political strategist ejected from boat, dies trying to swim ashore

Pictured in early January, the beachfront home on the bottom right has been felled by Atlantic Ocean waves on March 13, 2023. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A veteran North Carolina Democratic political consultant died over the weekend after he was ejected from the boat he was riding in near some of the state’s barrier islands, the National Park Service said on Tuesday.

Conen Morgan, 42, of Raleigh, whose consulting agency clients have included the campaigns of U.S. Reps. Alma Adams and Valerie Foushee, died Sunday, the park service said in a news release.

Morgan’s "hard work and determination made a real, positive difference for people of North Carolina," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a tweet. "His loss is a tragedy and we send our deepest sympathy to his family and friends."

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Authorities said Morgan and two others were in a rented boat in the Atlantic Ocean south of Shackleford Banks about 4:30 p.m. when it took a wave that ejected the passengers. The three made it to Shackleford Banks, but one passenger — identified later as Morgan — collapsed around the wave line, the park service said.

The two remaining passengers couldn’t move Morgan, started CPR and dialed 911. Park rangers arrived, and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive the victim, the news release said.

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There were 7- to 9-foot (2.1- to 2.7-meter) swells in the ocean with sporadic rain at the time of the accident, according to the park service, which said the U.S. Coast Guard and North Carolina wildlife officials are investigating what happened.

Morgan graduated from North Carolina State University and was once president of the Young Democrats of North Carolina, news outlets reported. The consulting firm he led was called the Longleaf Agency.

Morgan was a campaign manager for former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge and had worked with coalitions such as Advance Carolina and Blueprint NC.

"His intelligence will be missed," House Minority Leader Robert Reives of Chatham County said. "His acumen will be missed, (but) I think most people will miss him as a person."