As of now, only two third-party candidates have announced their campaigns for NC governor and they are both libertarians, setting up a third party primary for Super Tuesday in March, 2024.

Shannon Bray has run twice before, once for each chamber of Congress. His background is in technology and entrepreneurship. First-time candidate and certified financial planner Mike Ross has also announced his candidacy. Ross previously hosted the Liberty iNC podcast where he and Bray first met in 2020. 

Libertarian candidates in N.C. governor’s race: Shannon Bray (L) and Mike Ross (R)

Since then, both candidates have ended up running against each other for governor as likely the sole third-party candidates.

North Carolina’s Constitution Party is no longer recognized by the State Board of Elections, and the Green Party, added to the state’s ballot in 2022, has not responded to questions from Carolina Journal on whether they will run a candidate in the governor’s race. 

Although Bray and Ross have platforms that largely reflect the same values, the point of running, according to Bray, was not just to challenge Ross and give the Libertarian party another option, but also to strengthen the party’s visibility overall. 

“The primaries come up and Republicans and the Democrats all get center stage but then, as a libertarian, there’s no primary there,” Bray told CJ. “So in an effort to really kind of both help our party and I believe actually strengthen both mine and Mike’s runs, we need to have a primary and really try to get our messaging out. Because I don’t really disagree a lot with Mike.” 

When asked why he was running, Ross responded by saying that he wanted to fill the niche between the two-party duopoly. 

“I don’t think that either of those traditional parties is going to field a candidate who’s going to go out there and vote and advocate for issues that I think regular North Carolinians want,” Ross said.

Both candidates were interviewed separately by CJ to get their views on hot-button North Carolina and traditionally libertarian issues like education, abortion, drug legalization, and police reform. 


On education, both candidates expressed support for school choice and expanding voucher programs, something that is already likely to occur if the Republican-crafted Senate budget passes.

On the topic of critical race theory (CRT) and the teaching of other divisive topics being taught in schools, Bray stated that above all he supports accurate history being taught. “I want the children to learn the real history. I don’t want them to grow up in college before they find out about the atrocities of our American history with Native Americans and slavery,” Bray said. 

Yet, as both Ross and Bray both agreed, implementing robust school choice would help solve the issue of CRT without the need for government intervention

“I think that the more power at the fundamental level that you give to the parents to pursue the best value on the education dollar, the more ability parents have to provide their children with the best education possible,” Ross stated. 

Bray, similarly expressed that “School choice allows people to go in and out of schools that they choose. So if we accept school choice, it doesn’t matter how the discourse on what gets taught in schools plays out.”

“The government has shown time and time again that they will keep trying to promote whatever they feel fit. I’m not coming out against that, specifically. I don’t care about it either way. Instead, ignore the government, and go to the free market, the issue will take care of itself,” Ross added. 


On abortion, both candidates offered similarly nuanced views. While Bray may have offered a “hands off” approach during his Senate run, Bray said that on the state level, his views differ. 

“Stepping into the Senate candidate role I was more pro-choice to keep the federal government out of the equation, but at the state level, I do believe that after a certain time, it is up to the state to protect the life of that child. And while I think the 12 weeks is a little aggressive, I do support 16 weeks, but I do also support any medical conditions that are relevant,” Bray told CJ. 

By contrast, Ross was more firmly pro-choice, while also emphasizing how to provide more ways to educate and help people who are choosing between whether or not to have an abortion. 

“I don’t think banning it works. I think that the best libertarian solution to trying to ultimately have as few abortions as possible is not to restrict it but to promote alternatives to abortion like supporting adoption,” Ross stated. 


Medical and recreational drug use has historically been a top policy topic for Libertarians, and currently, it is also an important issue for the General Assembly as SB 3, a bill legalizing medical marijuana is currently in the House.  

“If it was legally possible. I would legalize or decriminalize marijuana in an executive order,” Bray stated. “I definitely want to see medical marijuana for our veterans and be able to be prescribed that as opposed to opioids. [additionally] I want to remove the ban on all drugs, primarily to help people, not criminalize people who need help,” Bray added. 

Ross similarly said that he would focus on providing the mentally ill and homeless access to safe drugs to stop overdoses from occurring, something that plagues Gaston Country, where he lives. 

“Every other day, I’m hearing about someone dying in Gaston County from a fentanyl overdose. Suddenly. None of these people are dying because they’re seeking fentanyl or heroin. They’re seeking oxycontin, or the opiates they’re on and they’re being poisoned fraudulently by drug dealers,” Ross described. 

As a result, Ross believes that decriminalizing drugs is the best way to help the homeless who are addicted to drugs and that are most prone to accidentally using tainted drugs. 

“How about we really focus on education, substance abuse counseling, and other alternative ways to solve this? Let the free market try to solve the issue that the government has failed at solving despite throwing away billions of dollars over decades trying to do so,” Ross stated. 


Lastly, on the issue of policing, both candidates agreed that the responsibility of police officers needed to be shifted away from victimless crimes. 

“I would reduce their responsibilities. So instead of defunding them, I would no longer have them enforce archaic laws like looking out for marijuana drug busts.” Bray stated.

Similarly, as part of Ross’ focus for his campaign, police reform would entail shifting their focus from “drug busts and traffic enforcement”’ to crimes that “actually have victims.” 

Both candidates also agreed that more accountability from police needs to be expected and required by way of getting rid of “no-knock warrants” and “qualified immunity.” 

“The idea that the state can use its power to dictate that its actors are protected from liability for their actions is chilling,” Ross said. “It is a blank check permission slip to indulge whatever impulse the police feel is necessary at the time, regardless of the degree to which that impulse violates someone’s rights.”