Mar 13, 2024 - News

Braxton Winston faces Luke Farley in election to protect NC workers and business

Photo illustration of Braxton Winston and Luke Farley.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of the campaigns.

After getting an 11-month jumpstart on campaigning, Braxton Winston, who did not have a Democratic challenger, now knows he'll face Republican Luke Farley in the race to become North Carolina's next labor commissioner.

Why it matters: Winston, Charlotte's former mayor pro tem, will find it harder to compete in a statewide race than in a city election, where he's slid to victory as one of the most popular and progressive politicians locally.

  • Farley, an attorney from Wake County, is on the opposite end of the aisle ideologically.

Zoom out: From gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson to state superintendent candidate Michele Morrow, far right-wing candidates will run down ballot in North Carolina in November.

The big picture: Along with promoting the "health, safety, and general well-being" of North Carolina workers, the labor department oversees inspections, including rollercoasters.

  • Remember Carowinds' wobbly beam on Fury 325? The labor department's Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau investigated the crack.
  • The department enforces Occupational Safety and Health laws as well.
  • The commissioner of labor is known for hanging their headshot in elevators across the state.
  • Current labor commissioner Josh Dobson, a Republican, isn't seeking reelection.

What they're saying: Farley tells Axios he'd be a "standard-bearer for common-sense conservatism" as labor commissioner and would not use the office to advance a political agenda.

  • But the North Carolina Chamber, in a cautionary statement, labeled Farley as too far-right, referring to his "Make Elevators Great Again" slogan and posed ban of vaccine requirements for employees.

More about the candidates:

Winston gained recognition during the 2016 Keith Lamont Scott protest and was elected to city council as part of the wave of millennial members in 2017. He's a union stagehand and grip.

  • Winston emphasizes the need for fair pay and adequate staffing in the labor department to avoid issues like Fury 325. He says the needs of businesses and the interests of workers are not mutually exclusive.
  • "No workers in North Carolina who work full-time jobs should live at or near poverty. They should have the ability to have affordable housing and access to health care and affordable childcare," Winston says. "That's the type of commissioner of labor I'm going to be."

Farley has a strong endorsement from the state's longest-serving labor commissioner, Cherie Berry, who said she came out of retirement to support him.

  • In his law practice, Farley says he's worked with employees who were hurt and small businesses who've received unfair citations.
  • He says he wants to make the labor department North Carolina's "secret weapon for economic development."
  • "You can protect workers without bankrupting businesses in the process," he says.
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