This month, the Tar Heel caught up with Shannon Bray. Shannon recently announced he will be seeking the Libertarian nomination for the North Carolina governor race in 2024. This is not his first run as candidate in NC; in both 2022 and 2020 he ran for the open Senate seats, including a widely publicized race last year that included Green Party nominee Matthew Hoh featuring a debate at Davidson College.
We wanted to talk to Shannon about his influences, his interests, his main issues, and his motivations. We also wanted to get his thoughts on messaging, which is a major topic of discussion at local, state, and federal levels of the LP right now.
Tar Heel: Shannon, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, and congratulations on your announcement. What influenced your initial interest in politics and what specifically attracted you to the Libertarian philosophy?
Shannon Bray: I often joke that it was Sarah Palin that drove me to the Libertarian party but politics in general started to divide people running up to 2008. I took an online political test to find where my ideals best aligned. What I discovered was I was indeed Libertarian. When I moved to North Carolina in 2012, I registered as a Libertarian.
The presidency of Donald Trump ultimately led to a decision to let my voice be heard. At the time, I was working for the DoD and the government spending issues kept furloughing my paycheck. As a person who has worked for the federal government most of my life, I felt I had a unique perspective that others would gravitate to.
Tar Heel: This is your third major race in NC. What motivates you to sign up each time? Is it the same underlying drive, or do you find different reasons for different races?
Bray: With the absence of the US Senate race, I had anticipated taking a backseat in this election, but I have had a number of communities reach out and ask that I run this year; this time for Governor. Technology has advanced dramatically and most of our leaders lack the knowledge to take advantage of technologies. I guess to answer your question, each time has been different. What makes this time different is I have already raised more money for this coming election than I have for my previous two attempts.
Tar Heel: We have been talking about messaging recently. You are very publicly a proponent of crypto and other blockchain currency solutions. What got you into them, why do you think they are important, and where do you see them going?
Bray: Crypto is one of the reasons why it is important that I am in this race. My start in crypto goes back several years but my crypto vision is somewhat new. Most people look at crypto as a replacement for fiat currency, and while that is true, the birth of NFTs will change the way our society works with data. Not to mention, DOAs and other crypto-type projects can offer many benefits to local economies. One such example is City Coin.
Tar Heel: Are you concerned about government attempts to intervene in the crypto market, either directly through regulation, or roundabout through the creation of CBDCs?
Bray: Yes; government sponsored crypto defeats the point altogether. The people of the world need a decentralized currency that they own and cannot be stolen from them by the government.
Tar Heel: Beyond crypto, what issues do you consider to the most important heading into 2023 and the election in 2024?
Bray: Our economy needs help; we are in a recession. The White House is reporting good job numbers but that is only because Americans are having to work more than one job now to get by. This is their answer for counting inflation. I'm a father of three school-aged kids and school choice is important. As a veteran, I also need to ensure that my brothers and sisters have the best resources available to them as they transition out of war zones.
Tar Heel: The Green party faced some pretty significant challenges getting on the ballot last year in the latest example of serious gatekeeping by both duopoly parties. What can the Libertarian party do to spread its message and see electoral success despite this challenge?
Bray: Ultimately, this is why we must run. As a third party, we want our ideas heard. We want our candidates taken seriously but the duopoly has defined our political structure and made it difficult for independent voices to emerge. Ballot access is a constant fight which is why the Libertarian party and its members work so hard to ensure we have candidates on the ballot. Every vote we get helps us maintain our ballot access. I, and the other third-party candidates, have to fight for each vote we get and absolutely no vote was wasted. Each of those votes helps ensure someone's voice can be heard in the future.
Tar Heel: Going further, you and Matthew Hoh became friends during that campaign. Where do you see other opportunities to work together with people on issues where we share common ground?
Bray: I would love to see other candidates work together like Mathew and I did. I think it shows how we would work for North Carolina in Washington. That is not the nature of NC politics though. It is a dirty business with both sides throwing in dark money to muddy the waters.
Tar Heel: Very interesting, thank you for that insight. Looking more specifically at you, make your governor pitch. What can you bring to the people of NC and why should you get their support? What would you do on day one?
Bray: I have a fresh take on what our economy needs and I would like to ensure our state can act without the need of any support from the Federal government. I would introduce cannabis as a cash crop and bring aid to our farmers. Our school system needs a gut check; I'm here to provide it. I am a huge advocate of school choice. With my technology background, I can bring new markets to our state while not risking our environment.
On day one we will have Constitutional Carry by Executive Order.
Tar Heel: Following up on that, what would you like to share about yourself personally with people who might be voting for you?
Bray: I'm a bit of an open book. After leaving the US Navy, I started working in technology. Most of my life has been documented somewhere online. I understand the threats that face our nation and I also understand some of the domestic threats that face our state. I believe we can replace many of our outdated systems with new technology and we can do so without forcing the bill on our taxpayers.
Tar Heel: Thank you again for your time today. Before we go, do you have any final thoughts or messages you want to share with the people reading this?
Bray: I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read this. If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @shannonbrayNC or though my campaign resources. Thank you.
Dee Watson, NC Senate District 16
Hello, my name is Dee Watson and I am currently running as a Libertarian in for NC Senate district 16. I have over 20 years' experience working in clinical trials as a statistician and statistical programmer. I've always worked in places where opinions are formed from fact finding. When I see politicians selectively pick facts to bolster their opinions, I'm shocked by how counterproductive they are. The best way to solve any problem is to first acquire the relevant information. Then honest people typically agree on the best course of action. If elected, that's what I hope to bring to the capital. I understand that individuals are best suited to make their own decisions.
Government one size fits all decisions cause inefficiencies and needless waste. I will advocate against all government medical mandates. People own their own bodies and the government should never decide what an individual is required to put in or keep out of their body. The government has made it illegal to own a plant, but when someone is arrested, and they didn't harm anyone, the only victim is the person arrested. We need to end the criminalization of possession of firearms and drugs. Most importantly we need to realize that many children are not served best by government schools. We need to fund students, not systems in North Carolina.
David Coatney, US House District 11
My name is David Coatney, and I would like you to know that I have been happily married for 10 years and have been a small business owner since 2005. As the owner of a web marketing agency, I have dedicated my entire adult life to helping small businesses, and now I want to fight for policies that help Mom & Pop.
I saw how destructive government overregulation can be to small businesses and decided not to sit on the sidelines anymore. I was also motivated to fight for immigration reform after having experienced the immigration process firsthand with my wife Beth.
Sean Haugh, NC House District 31
I am running so the voters of my district can choose to radically reduce the size and scope of state government. Abolishing corporate welfare incentives, ending the war on drugs, expanding school choice, and privatizing alcohol sales are all easy Libertarian solutions that will massively reduce the state budget. There are also a whole host of regulations and taxes that we could eliminate so that everyone can enjoy more opportunities to seek prosperity for themselves and their families. We could start with permanently repealing all the healthcare regulations that were suspended because they turned out to be obstacles to our response to the pandemic.
Thomas Hill, Cabarrus County Soil & Water Supervisor
Social Media Coordinator for Dr. Mary Ruwart and founder of Healing Our America
As our county continues to attract new businesses and residents, we need to maintain our ecological balance by holding developers responsible for any negative impact upon our shared infrastructure and environment. We can welcome economic growth without sacrificing our principles and natural resources. The county should encourage all farmers and rural property owners to plant hemp as a form of erosion control. Win or lose, I will continue to monitor issues in our community and advocate for the level of stewardship required to ensure we all have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink
NC Senate 14
I am running to return the power of personal choice to the citizens of district 14 and the state of NC. I want to give parents greater freedom to select the best educational options for their children by expanding educational savings accounts, scholarships, and vouchers. I want to reduce or eliminate zoning and land use laws so that people can maximize the economic benefit of their private property and developers can create the quantities and types of housing that are needed to increase supply and decrease the price of housing in our state. I want to eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing regimes that put a stranglehold on people's ability to leverage their natural talents and build wealth for their families, and I want to create an economic environment in this state that allows for new and innovative businesses to easily emerge and flourish. Lastly, I want to reform our criminal injustice system to bring it back within its constitutional guardrails. Half of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights are specifically written to make it difficult to put people in cages, yet our state government imprisons a greater percentage of our NC population than almost every other developed nation and even some dictatorships in the third world.
We must end no knock warrants, curb pre-trial detention so that it is the exception and not the rule, limit our prosecutor's ability to utilize the plea bargaining process to coerce people out of their day in court, end qualified immunity so that government employees are liable to the same constitutional standards as citizens, and we must end the heinous practice of federal asset forfeiture sharing so that our law enforcement agencies are no longer criminals using citizens like an ATM machine whenever they need funds. I believe that the vast majority of our police are good, hard-working people that truly want to build trust with our communities, but we will never build that trust until the management of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors demand that the minority of bad actors stop being the bad guys and behave properly. Personal choice, freedom and liberty, and a society free from fear of government harassment is the roadmap to a better society. Peace and prosperity occur only when individuals are free to make rational choices for themselves, their families, and their communities, unimpeded by excessive government regulation.
NC Senate 15
We need to elect honest people with great personal integrity into leadership – not just CEOs and businessmen who look out primarily for themselves.
School choice and competition will help improve North Carolina's education system. No one dislikes public schools, but only competition and choice can push stodgy bureaucracies to make changes rather than just guarding entrenched special interests.
Zoning is far too restrictive. People need to be able to build duplexes, multi-family housing, accessory dwelling units, "granny flats," and cottage houses.
Wake County needs more housing, and we need to stop getting in the way of our own progress. Eliminating ABC Boards is a no-brainer. There is no need for government to be losing money trying to run grocery stores. Selling liquor is just a business and adults can make their own responsible decisions about where to buy it.
Government is about providing justice and fairness. That's what we need it to focus on.
NC Senate 13
North Carolina has the most restrictive and expensive state system of alcoholic beverage control in the nation.
Some of the costs are paid in the form of a "tax" through higher operating costs, and unreasonably high monopoly salaries for local ABC officials. But much of the cost is paid through inconvenience and nonsensical restrictions on local access: our state has less than half the number retail outlets enjoyed by the surrounding southern states. There is no reason the state should maintain a monopoly on retail sales; private stores can take over this expense, and allow people to buy nearer their homes without driving 20 or 50 miles.
Many people object that having a high price deters excessive alcohol use; if you believe that, it is still time to end the old-fashioned and wasteful ABC. We can impose an alcohol tax that will keep prices about the same after privatization. The difference is that this tax will collect revenue, rather than the current "tax" of having to drive 30 minutes each way. The tax revenue can be used to expand opportunities for school choice in rural areas, communities that until now have depended on the state monopoly on education. If we are careful, we can offer better choices and increase personal responsibility in both alcohol sales and education in rural communities.
NC House 34
More freedom for parents to choose what's best for their children, more opportunities for our small businesses, less regulation, and greater school and housing choice.
Wake County is thriving because of the energy, enthusiasm, forward-thinking, and hard work of our diverse small businesses. I want to encourage and stimulate that growth, not stifle it.
The diversity of our people should be reflected in the diversity of the choices they have to live, work, play, educate their children, and pursue their dreams. Government should, in most cases, get out of their way. Special interests should not dictate what choices are allowed. And no one should get special treatment.