NC Deep Dive

Democratic Ballot: NC Treasurer -- Gabe Esparza & Wesley Harris

February 21, 2024 Amanda Lunn
NC Deep Dive
Democratic Ballot: NC Treasurer -- Gabe Esparza & Wesley Harris
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wondered what drives a person to serve their community at the highest level of state government? Step inside the compelling journeys of Gabe Esparza and Wesley Harris, Democratic candidates in the North Carolina Treasurer race, whose stories are as rich as the policies they advocate for. Gabe's narrative is a testament to the American Dream, with immigrant roots leading to seismic shifts in public safety through Rapid SOS and fortifying small businesses via the US Small Business Administration. On the flip side, Wesley Harris brings a future-focused lens to the table, aiming to ensure North Carolina's financial resilience through sound investments and unwavering commitment to the state's credit rating.

As we unpack the significance of these often-overlooked primary races, remember that your vote is the cornerstone of our communities. This episode isn't just a dialogue on candidates and their platforms; it's a clarion call to embrace our role as architects of democracy. By tuning in, you're not just listening—you're stepping up to the proverbial plate, ready to swing for the fences of informed citizenship and robust participation. Join the conversation, and let's collectively strengthen the heartbeat of our democracy in North Carolina and beyond.

Gabe Esparza & Wesley Harris

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Now, let's dive in!

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Hello friends, thanks for joining me and the NC Deep Dive. I am your host, Amanda Benbow-Lunn, and we are delving into the 2024 primary election. Each episode will cover a different race that will be on your primary ballot this election. When you go to vote, you will be handed a ballot based on your address and party affiliation. If you are unaffiliated sometimes also referred here as independent then you will have your choice of which party's ballot you would like to vote. Please note that you are only able to cast one ballot and that there are no primary ballots for the Green Party or the no Labels Party. Moreover, candidates for the general election in November who do not have a primary challenger will not appear on your primary ballot. They get a pass directly to the general election. Due to time constraints and the plethora of candidates, and my belief that having as much information as possible is of vast importance, our primary election segment will consist of me covering one race at a time, as time allows, and going over each candidate's website and what I can find on a simple Google search, in case it is easier for you to take in information this way. If you are short on time, you can check out our NC Deep Dives voters guide for the 2024 primary election, found pinned to our Facebook page or on this episode show notes at www. ncdeepdive. com. It will be an easy way to access each candidate's website and research the candidates on your own. If that's a better use of your time, without further ado, my friends, let's dive in. Now we're going to dive into the Democratic primary ballot for North Carolina Treasurer. There are two candidates, Gabe Esparza and Wesley Harris, in which you will be able to vote for one.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

First off. We're going to start with Gabe. His website is Gabe for North Carolina. com. That's Gabe F-O-R. North Carolina. com starts with about Gabe For Gabe Asparza, a nationally recognized business and civic executive.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Hard work and giving back are in his blood. His family immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, one side escaping a fascist persecution in Europe, while the other side fled the violence of the Mexican Revolution, both finding freedom and opportunity in a nation which they cherish, defend and contribute. Gabe's maternal grandfather was a liquor salesman and a proud union member, whose passion for fishing is a tradition that Gabe's family celebrates to this day. His paternal grandparents raised 12 children with grit, faith and lots of homemade tortillas. Gabe's paternal grandfather worked in the Orange Groves for 25 cents a crate and then put in long hours in highway construction and plumbing. And when his country needed him, he proudly served in the Pacific Theater during World War II as social and mental health workers.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Gabe's parents were in the business of helping others, and at home that's what they taught their kids, instilling in Gabe and his brother the importance of lifting others up to create a stronger community. With those values as his foundation, gabe started mowing lawns in junior high school and working concessions at university football games to give himself more opportunities to reach his dreams. He worked his way through school with the help of scholarships and loans, always remembering a lesson from his grandfather that quote education equals freedom, end quote. And it was in school that Gabe first took on a role that has come to define his life that of mentor. Gabe took other students under his wing, particularly first and second generation Latinos, and helped build them up, pairing them for success and a shot at the American dream.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

With a top tier education and business degree under his belt, gabe started making his mark in the corporate world. He learned the importance of customer service at the Walt Disney Company. Then, over the course of 13 years at American Express, he focused on small business financing before rising through the ranks to lead global commercial payment teams. Yet despite his accomplished corporate career, gabe knew there was great opportunity at the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology and public service. Thus, first as an angel investor and then later as a senior operating executive, he helped finance and lead a startup technology company called Rapid SOS that radically transformed our nation's 911 emergency system. The company created a platform that facilitates the transmission of data, including precise location, from cell phones, connected cars and other devices to 911 dispatchers, so first responders are able to reach you quickly and with the help you need. With significant capital raise to grow the company and with its technology embedded in public safety operations across the country, gabe was able to accept a role as a senior official at the US Small Business Administration, leading the Office of International Trade. Since 2021, his team has managed a $600 million loan portfolio, provided over $40 million in export stimulus grants and helped highlight the importance of small businesses in US trade policy and trade negotiations around the world. As a result, small businesses throughout North Carolina and across the country have expanded their businesses overseas, driving record US export sales and creating jobs here at home. And through it all, gabe has always made time to give back. He helped found a school that brings special focus to at-risk kids, has served on multiple boards, including as a trustee at Central Piedmont Community College, and previously spent nine years as a public official on the board of civil service commissioners. Gabe and his wife are proud to be raising their two children in Charlotte and to be part of such a vibrant community with incredible potential in the years to come.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He does link a Twitter or an X page, along with a LinkedIn page on his press tab, so he has many articles here. I am not going to go through all of them, but I'll read some of their titles. January 24, 2024. The Purple Ballot examines North Carolina's Council of State and important races to watch. It's a look at the NC Treasurer's Race. February 8, 2024. 2024 Candidate Conversations with Gabe Esparza. There's an article where you can watch the full conversation.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

February 2,. Gabe Esparza proves fiscal bona fides with fundraising momentum and cash on hand advantage in North Carolina's State Treasurer's Race. February 13,. North Carolina will have a new state treasurer next year. See which candidates want your vote. There's an article from February 8,.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Candidate for NC Treasurer Democrat Gabe Esparza answers our questions. There are a few. There's an article for August 24. Exceso Latino Latino presenta su candidatoria para tesorero de Carolina del Norte. August 24, cardinal and Pine Gabe Esparza could be the first Latino elected statewide in North Carolina. August 17, south Charlotte Weekly. South Charlotte man running for state treasurer. August 15, rock 105.1. Former Biden official from Charlotte running for office. August 15, la Noticia Gabe Esparza busca ser primer tesorero Latino de Carolina del Norte. And there are a couple more pages with other press releases or media information.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He does have a few endorsements, so the first of which is the North Carolina AFL-CIO. He is endorsed by the Sierra Club, which is one of the nation's largest environmental advocacy organizations. He did receive an endorsement from Latino Victory, which the Latino Victory Fund. He is endorsed by Susan Rodriguez McDowell, a Mecklenburg County Commissioner, a California state treasurer, sig Hutchinson, former chair, wake County Commissioner, steve Rau, an out-large council member for the town of Morrisville, a chair of Chatham County Commissioner, community leader at Manolo's Bakery, ricky Hurtado, which is a former NC State representative, somebody from the Durham City Council, school board member from Charlotte, mecklenburg. Kayla Bruto, an NC State representative. Mitch Colvin, a Fayetteville mayor, franklin Gomez Flores, chatham County Commissioner. And Val Applewhite, an NC Senator. He's also been endorsed by Teamsters 391 and Replacements LTD Pack. He has a link on where you can vote which links to the North Carolina Board of Elections and ways to get involved and to donate. Looking him up on Google, I didn't see anything that was concerning.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He is listed on Ballotpedia for his campaign finance for this election, which covers January 1st 2023 through December 31st of 2024. He has a total of $213,207 in contributions made from 354 unique contributors, one of which was himself at $13,410. His expenditures are totaling $78,047 with 74 unique payees. He did give a loan to his campaign of $50,000. Gabe has not filled out the candidate connection survey for Ballotpedia, but he did provide responses for our NC Deep Dive Voters Guide.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Next we have up Wesley Harris. His website is harris4nccom. That for is spelled out F-O-R Harris, f-o-r-n-c dot com. It says Wesley Harris for State Treasurer. It's time to make an investment in our people. Too much of our state has been left behind for too long and it's going to take every single one of us to bring back opportunity to North Carolina. You can sign up for his campaign. Let's make an investment in North Carolina.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Representative Wesley Harris is running for treasurer because we deserve a leader in the treasurer's office who will be an advocate for long-term financial planning and sound fiscal policy. Wesley will work hard to protect our state bond ratings, increase our capacity for investment in infrastructure that improves people's lives and ensure a secure retirement for state employees. With Wesley Harris at the helm, north Carolina can become a leader in the 21st century economy and remain the best state in North Carolina to work and live In regards to its platform. For too many of our communities, the last few decades have shown what happens when the world leaves them behind. Lack of investment has left once vibrant places hollowed out and our most vulnerable families have suffered as a result. Without opportunity, folks lose hope, which threatens the stability not only of our economy but our very democracy. Our state is overflowing with potential, but to make opportunity accessible to every North Carolinian, we need a state government and we need a treasurer who's willing to invest in the most valuable asset we have people, our people. Let's think and plan not just for tomorrow, but for years to come. As treasurer Wesley Harris will be an advocate for long-term thinking that will keep our state financially solvent for years to come.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

For too long, the treasurer's office has failed to look past tomorrow and adequately prepare our state for the challenges of the future. While doing so may yield results in the short term, it leaves North Carolina funds vulnerable as our economy changes over time. Let's protect our state bond ratings and expand our investment capacity. North Carolina is only one of 12 states with a AAA credit rating the highest possible. A strong bond rating allows our state to do more for our people, getting better rates as we seek to invest in infrastructure that improves people's lives like school, clean water and safe transportation. By managing our money responsibly, wesley will protect our strong rating and expand our capacity to invest.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Let's do right by our state employees. Growing up as a son of a lifelong public school teacher, wesley saw firsthand how the benefits that the state offers affect our state employees and their families. In order to ensure the best possible future for our state, we need to have reliable benefits that will attract world-class employees to our schools and other government jobs. Wesley will always make wise investment decisions and look out for the health of our state pension fund and ensure that state employees benefit from a world-class health plan. Let's cut out the culture of war nonsense and focus on the job at hand. The treasurer's office shouldn't be a playground for partisan games, but at times it has been. The current treasurer has worked to deny healthcare to state employees who are part of vulnerable minority groups and to meddle in private companies' affairs over their recognition that the market is embracing green energy. As treasurer Wesley will cut out the games and just focus on providing excellent value to North Carolina taxpayers, wesley will be a champion for every North Carolinian.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Wesley grew up in Alexander and Irredell counties. Raised by a mom who was a lifelong public school teacher and a dad who was a local banker, his parents and three sisters taught him the value of hard work, a good education and family. More than that, he learned early on the importance of smart investment in the long-term financial planning, as well as seeing firsthand how policy impacts our public employees and their families. After receiving his PhD in economics from Clemson University, he returned home to serve the people of North Carolina and has since become the leading messenger and policy expert for economic and financial issues in the general assembly, diving deep into the numbers in order to advocate for working families and build up opportunity in our state. About Wesley Harris.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

From rural roots, wesley Harris spent the first years of his life in Taylorsville, nestled within the gentle slopes of the Brushy Mountains. It was a chaotic household growing up as the youngest of four, just like any big family. But the Harris's were blessed with opportunities that allowed Wesley and his sister to dream big. His mother was a lifelong public school teacher and his father was a local banker. They taught Wesley and his sisters the value of hard work, a good education and family. More than that, he learned early on how government can be a force for good in our communities when it invests in their success.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Growing up, wesley was always curious about the role of government had to play in creating opportunities for some while others in his community struggled. After high school, he went off to UNC, where he got his bachelor's degree in economics, and then Clemson for his PhD. Following his time at Clemson, he tried out teaching for a few years and then private economic consulting, but his heart remained firmly back home in the rolling hills of Carolina. Returning home, after the North Carolina legislator passed House Bill 2, wesley decided it was time to come home and fight for the North Carolina he remembered growing up, one that focuses on the kitchen table issues that matter, not on partisan payback and attacking our neighbors for who they are. Additionally, as a PhD economist, wesley knew he could provide a unique perspective in the state government.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So in 2018, wesley came home, ran for the North Carolina House and won unseating and incumbent who'd won by 10 points just the year, two years prior. Since then, wesley has become the leading messenger and policy expert for economic and financial issues in the General Assembly, diving deep into the numbers in order to advocate for working families the road ahead. Now Wesley is running for treasurer, because we deserve a leader in the treasurer's office who will be an advocate for long term financial planning and sound fiscal policy. Wesley will work hard to protect our state bond ratings, increase our capacity for investment in infrastructure that improves people's lives and ensure a secure retirement for state employees. With Wesley Harris at the helm, north Carolina can become a leader in the 21st century economy and remain the best state in the country to work and live by investing in its greatest resource its people. When not fighting for working families on Jones Street, he lives in Valentine.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

For his endorsements, I will tell you this is a very, very, very long list, and possibly the longest list of any candidate that I've ever looked at, but we will start with federal and state officials. Alma Adams, us Congresswoman, district 12. David Price, former congressman Deborah Ross, our US Congresswoman Don Davis, us Congressman Jeff Jackson, us Congressman Kathy Manning, us Congresswoman Larry Hall, former secretary of North Carolina Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, valerie Fushi, us Congresswoman Wiley Nickel, us Congressman. Organizations that he is endorsed by he's endorsed by the African American Caucus of North Carolina Democratic Party, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus, the Communication Workers of America Political Action Group, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, durham People's Alliance PAC, the North Carolina Association of Educators, pam Spicks. He's endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes, south Atlantic Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, the M-PAC, the Political Action Committee of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the Sierra Club, dr George C Simkins Jr Memorial PAC, wake County Voter Education Coalition, and he's also endorsed by the young Democrats of North Carolina.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Now, as for state legislators, there is a list of 71 state legislators. I'll name a few of them that I recognize around this area Deb Butler, representative for NC House District 18. Gail Adcock, senator for North Carolina Senate District 16. Greg Meyer, for Senator at North Carolina Senate District 23. Julie von Hafen, representative for North Carolina House District 36. Lisa Grafstein, senator for NC Senate District 13. Maria Cervania, representative for North Carolina House District 41. Natalie Murdoch, senator for North Carolina District 20. Natasha Marcus, senator for North Carolina Senate District 41. Rosa Gill, representative for North Carolina House District 33. Sam Searcy, former Senator for North Carolina Senate District 17. Sarah Crawford, representative for North Carolina House, district 66. Sydney Batch, senator for North Carolina Senate District 17. Terrence Everett, representative for North Carolina House District 35. And Yalu, representative for North Carolina House, district 21.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He also lists endorsements for local elected officials, and again, there is a long list here. If, by my count is correct, there are 94 people listed in this list. Ones that may be familiar to people in this area would be Terry Mahaffey, member of the Apex Town Council. Shanika Thomas, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Irv Portman, former member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Those are the ones that I'm locally familiar with. And then he goes on to list various community leaders who have endorsed him and just kind of the title of some of these individuals Certified Paralegal, tired Mom, passionate Wesley Supporter.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Involved Citizen. Retired Clinical Social Worker. Retired Educator. Wesley's Kindergarten Teacher. First Vice Chair of Johnston County's Democratic Party. County Vice Chair for Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. Former State Health Plan HIPAA Privacy Officer. Family Physician. Former DNC member, former NC House candidate known Wesley, since birth, a professional engineer, the Precinct Vice Chair for Orange County Democrats and the Steering Committee for Charlotte, mecklenburg Climate Leaders so quite a substantial number of endorsements. He has a page where you can volunteer information about voting, a store information about donations.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And then he has his latest press releases. I won't read into them, but I'll read you the titles Wesley Harris, democrat for North Carolina Treasurer, launches TV spot highlighting overwhelming strength and endorsements. State Representative Wesley Harris files for State Treasurer. Wesley Harris reports strong fundraising totals. Wesley Harris shows strength with endorsements. Wesley Harris announces run for Treasurer Wesley. In the news it talks about the NCAA endorsing Wesley Harris for NC State Treasurer. M-pac endorses Harris for State Treasurer. Mecklenburg Democrats seek to move to Raleigh Local Representative I state treasurer's office. And there are a number of other articles. An article that I saw on Google for Wesley nothing out of the ordinary, but I did see one that talked about impact endorsing Harris for state treasurer. And so this is the political action committee of the state employees association of North Carolina. They have previously endorsed the current North Carolina treasurer, dale Fullwell, and I believe I read that they endorsed his prior two runs for North Carolina treasurer. So it is interesting to me that they are endorsing Harris for this race. For his ballopedia it says he represents district 105.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

As a member of the North Carolina House of Representative, he assumed office on January 1st of 2019. His current term ends on January 1st of 2024. He is on this race for the Democratic primary for North Carolina treasurer. His committee assignments for 23-24 were the Agricultural Committee, house Finance Committee, judiciary Third Committee, marine Rescue and Aqua Culture Committee, house Transportation Committee. For 2021-2022, he was assigned to the following committees the Education, universities Committee, House Finance Committee, judiciary Third Committee, marine Rescue and Aqua Culture Committee and House Transportation. For 2019-2020, he was assigned to the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, house Finance Committee, house Judiciary Committee and House Transportation Committee.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He has sponsored a variety of bills. I'll just read a handful, but there are a large number here that you can look at the Educate Patients about Obioid Antagonist Mental Health Licensing. Fair Practice Standards. The Pre-Child Integrity Act. The Rebeccae Carney-Cardiac Arrest Act. Passenger Rail Capital and Service Grant Fund. Civilian Traffic Investigators. Civil Rights Education, american Indians Graduating with Honors Act. Sports, wadering and Horse Racing Wadering. The Reorganization and Economic Development Act. Increased Teacher Diversity Study. So there are a number of bills that he has sponsored Towards his campaign finance for the 2024 election, which again started January 1st of 2023 and runs through December 31st of this year.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He has a total of $332,098 in contributions that have been given by 1,758 unique contributors. He has $179,622 in expenditures to 275 unique payees. There is a scorecards list for him on ballotpedia where you can click to review all the scorecards we found on this legislator for 2022. Again, this would be for his involvement in the North Carolina House of Representatives, but if that's important to you, it looks like there are scorecards for the Affordable Health Care Coalition of North Carolina, civitas Action, national Federation of Independent Business, nc Values Coalition, the North Carolina Chamber and the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

He did not fill out the candidate connection survey for ballotpedia for this year and this race, but in 2020 he did fill out their survey and there are a few questions. Who are you? Please list three messages of your campaign, what areas of public policy are you personally passionate about and what process do you favor for redistricting? So if those things are interesting to you, you can check out ballotpedia. He did answer our questionnaire for the North Carolina Deep Dive Voters Guide, so that will be in this episode's show notes and that will bring this episode to a close Again. We were discussing the Democratic primary for the North Carolina Treasurer, Gabe Esparza versus Wesley Harris.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

You are eligible to vote for one of these candidates. Democracy is the foundation of all we hold dear. We are better as a community, state and nation when we all take part in our civic duty by being informed and casting our vote. The candidates and offices on your ballot can have a major impact on our everyday lives and can have real consequences. They create and enforce our laws, invest in our future well-being, fund all the things like our schools and roads, ensure we have safe drinking water and food to put on our tables and advocate on behalf of those they represent, hopefully keeping in mind both the little and the big picture of it all.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Early voting is now going on and will continue through Saturday, march 2nd. Our closest early voting locations will be the WE Hunt Center in Holly Springs and the hilltop Needmore Town Park and Preserve in Fuquay Varina. The main primary election will be held on Tuesday, march 5th. If you vote that day, it's best for you to go to your designated polling place, or else some of the races you are eligible to vote for may not show up on the ballot they have available to give you During early voting. Each area in Wake County has all the possible ballots for Wake County Election day. They will only have the ballot that corresponds directly to that particular precinct. Please remember you now need to bring your photo ID. If you happen to forget or have had some extraordinary circumstance happen, you will have a few different options provided to you, but it will be best and easiest and most efficient to bring it with you. If, for some reason, you haven't registered to vote yet, you may register and vote at the same time during early voting at any one of the sites. March 2nd will be the last day to register to vote for this primary election, and that brings this episode of the NC Deep Dive to a close.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Make sure you check out all the other relevant episodes for the 2024 primary election at www. ncdeepdive. c om, apple Podcasts, spotify, audible or wherever you currently listen to your podcasts. I will be including helpful links for each candidate and voting in general on our website's show notes, including our NC Deep Dives Voters Guide for the 2024 primary election. We were blessed to have many candidates take the time to share their thoughts and speak to voters within Southern Wake County. The Voters Guide is arranged by party affiliation and organized in such a way to make it relatively easy to find the races or candidates you might be interested in. All candidates' websites are linked. If I was able to find one, I also consciously chose to arrange the Voters Guide starting at the end of the ballot.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So often we are aware of the larger races, yet don't hear much about or take the time to learn about the smaller races. As always, if you have any questions, concerns or topics you'd like to share, you may contact us via social media or our email at ncdeepdivecom. Thank you for engaging with this episode and becoming a more informed citizen. Democracy is a team sport. Together, we make democracy work and our communities a better place to work, play and live. Your vote matters, your voice matters. You matter Until next time, my friends. Namaste, the love and light in me sees and honors the love and light in you.

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