Shannon Bray, Libertarian candidate for governor. (CANDIDATE PHOTO)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Democrats in North Carolina may not need a primary to decide who will be on their ballot for governor next year, but the Libertarian party now has a race.

Shannon Bray, a candidate for the U.S. Senate last year, announced Wednesday that he would run against businessman Michael Ross of Gastonia to see who might win the nomination to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Attorney General Josh Stein is the only announced Democrat in the field, and there are three Republicans, all with roots in Piedmont Triad: State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a native of Winston-Salem and graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a native of Greensboro and graduate of UNCG and former U.S. Rep Mark Walker, a resident of Greensboro who represented the part of the region for three terms in Congress.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (WGHP file)
NC Attorney General Josh Stein (AP)
Mike Ross, (CANDIDATE)
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (AP FILE PHOTO)
NC Treasurer Dale Folwell (AP FILE PHOTO)

Bray, who finished third behind Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley in the 2022 Senate race, said in announcing his campaign that he would focus on three principle issues: the economy, education, and health care.

“An advocate of minimal government and individual liberty, Bray will fight for the people to choose how they live, and what they choose to do with their lives,” his announcement said.

Bray fully supports school choice – his release said that 30% of children attend private or home schools – and attacked Cooper for his campaign against that policy.

His campaign manager, Courtney Conover, said in an email that Bray and Ross would have several events and debates leading up to the primary, which is scheduled for March 5. The General Election is Nov. 5.

In addition to governor – and the national election for president – voters will be electing the 14 representatives to the U.S. House, the Council of State, the General Assembly, the state Supreme Court and various other courts and boards.

Bray is not a new face on the North Carolina political scene. He received more than 51,000 votes during the 2022 Senate race, but he also finished third in 2020, getting 171,571 votes out of nearly 5.5 million cast when Republican Thom Tillis nipped Democrat Cal Cunningham.

Bray lost a Libertarian primary to Tim Harris in 2019 when a special election seated Republican Greg Murphy in the 3rd Congressional District.

Bray, who lives in Apex, is a native of Louisiana who works in information technology. He has a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State and a graduate degree from the University of Delaware. He also served in the U.S. Navy for 6 years.