Before he made the announcement on Jan. 4, Rep. Jon Hardister had hinted for weeks that he would take a shot at the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor post in 2024 and decline to run for re-election in NC House District 59, where he has served since 2013.

We were there in those heady days when Hardister won his first election in 2012 — heck, we were there when he logged his only electoral loss, to Rep. Pricey Harrison in 2010, the same year his GOP brethren took a majority in the State House in 100 years.

We’ve watched him rise quickly through the Republican ranks, becoming House whip at the frightfully young age of 34, all the while taking care to win his elections — even when the district was not always drawn in his favor.

We’re not always kind to Republicans in this space — and we have disagreed with plenty of policy positions put forth by NC Republicans and whipped to vote by Hardister. But for every Parents Bill of Rights, there were a dozen bills that allocated funds and favors to his district and its neighbors. We saw him find common ground with Triad Democrats again and again, then use his position within the party in power to make things happen.

Hardister can also take some credit for reforming — to a degree — our state’s antiquated regulations on alcohol. As chair of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, he was an early advocate for the burgeoning brewing and distilling sectors in the state. In large part, he’s the reason why distilleries can sell more bottles of their own product and why you can get a mimosa at Sunday brunch before noon.

Are these accomplishments enough for a House rep — albeit a popular one — to win a statewide election?

He’ll already have at least one primary challenger: Rep. Ben Moss, of District 52 in Moore County, who announced his intent to run for labor commissioner in December 2022. Any number of Republicans could throw a hat in the ring in the next two years, and then there will certainly be a Democrat to run against in the general election.

Perhaps it would seem safer, politically, for Hardister to maintain his position in District 59 — which, as it’s currently drawn, leans slightly to the left. In last year’s election, Hardister got 56.3 percent of the vote, but that’s not so great considering his adversary, Sherrie Young, did almost no campaigning and was arrested on a gun charge shortly before the election and still got almost half.

Maybe he smells something in the air. But two years is an eternity in politics. Who knows which way the wind will be blowing by then?

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