After nearly 20 years in office Cherie Berry, the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor (and familiar face of elevators across the Tar Heel State), announced in April of 2019 that she would not seek re-election. This seat is one of ten Council of State positions that are elected by popular vote. The position has been held by Republicans since Cherie Berry was elected back in 2000. As of this writing, three Republicans and one Democrat have filed for the Commissioner of Labor race. Since Berry is not seeking re-election this race will be one of three Council of State races without an incumbent in 2020. The other two races without incumbents are the election for Lt. Governor, and for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In the 2016 election, Cherie Berry received 2,505,628 votes to Democrat Charles Meeker’s 2,029,227. This was one of the widest margins in the Council of State elections and might be a reflection of both the built-in advantages that an incumbent has, as well as the low-profile nature of a race that tends to not attract big ads or PAC money. Berry reported raising $139,063, while Meeker reported $110,252.
Attorney and UNC Chapel Hill graduate Jessica Holmes is the only candidate to file so far in the Democratic primary. Holmes currently serves on the Wake County Board of Commissioners representing District 3. She received an endorsement of the AFL–CIO and has received support from former Governor Jim Hunt, along with several other prominent Democrats.
The newest candidate to get into the race is Chuck Stanley of Columbus County. He has previously served as Columbus County Solid Waste Director, and in 2010 he was a Democratic candidate for County Commissioner; a race in which he received 80 votes, equaling 6%. The Cycle has been unable to determine when Stanley changed party affiliation but can confirm he voted in the 2016 Republican, and 2018 Democratic primaries. In North Carolina, if a voter is registered as Independent they may choose which party’s primary ballot they will vote in.
Now an employee of Frank Horne Construction, Stanley stated via Facebook that he is running because Commissioner Berry has done a great job, and he wants to keep the Department of Labor moving in that direction.
Former Rep. Pearl Burris-Floyd is a former Gaston County Commissioner and served in the NC House representing Gaston and Cleveland counties. She has been endorsed by Cherie Berry. Jim Womack, one of the Directors for the Conservative Coalition of North Carolina, told The Cycle, “[The Republican Party is] blessed to have strong candidates,” but he was particularly excited by what he called the “strong administrative skills” of Burris-Floyd. Womack also said that she represents the kind of diversity that needs to be encouraged within the Republican Party.
Representative Josh Dobson currently represents NC House District 85 which covers Avery, McDowell, and Mitchell Counties. He has been endorsed by the Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, and by Congressman Mark Meadows. Dobson received criticism from some conservative activist sites late last year when he came to odds with State Treasurer Dale Folwell over the state health plan.