Former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, who left public office a decade ago, is back. In a close contest, delegates to the state Republican Convention today chose Fetzer over Chad Adams as their new party leader. Some 1,600 delegates attended. By a weighted voting process, they cast a total of 8,180 votes. Fetzer fell just short of a majority on the first ballot, with 3,901 to Adams’ 3,380; two other candidates received the rest, and both immediately withdrew. Before a second ballot could be completed, Adams also withdrew and conceded to Fetzer.

Adams pitched himself as the champion of grassroots politics, and his supporters characterized Fetzer as the establishment’s choice. Fetzer, though, said he’s also committed to party-building at the grassroots level.

The 54-year old Fetzer said he spent more than $50,000 on his campaign; Adams, according to Jack Hawke, a former state chair who advised him, spent between $30,000 and $40,000. Hawke said the candidates aren’t required to make a public report of how much they raised or who contributed to them under a ruling by the state Attorney General’s office. Fetzer said his raised his funds from “small donors — a lot of them.”

Adams was on leave from his job as a John Locke Foundation staffer (Art Pope, the Locke Foundation’s financial angel, watched him go down to defeat) who’d said he would serve full-time in the post if elected and seek to be paid by the party. Fetzer said “it would nice to be compensated if the job’s going to be full-time,” but how it’s structured isn’t his decision, it’s up to the party’s executive committee.

Fetzer, who publicly denied being gay during the campaign, told the convention that Republicans understand what President Obama doesn’t: “Even though we are tolerant of other religions, we are a Christian nation.”

More on what the Republicans all said in coming pieces.