Duke professor and Indian American economist Ronnie Chatterji, after announcing in May 2019 of his intentions to run for the treasurer post in North Carolina, recently made it official.
Chatterji tossed his name into the race for the post which includes another Indian American, Charlotte Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera, who also recently announced her candidacy (see previous article here: https://bit.ly/3a8He2Q).
Chatterji made his intentions known May 4, 2019, via a tweet, saying, “I want to use my experience on healthcare, responsible investing and governance to serve my state” (see full India-West article here: https://bit.ly/2TjaVbq).
Chatterji, a professor at the Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy, decided to run for the position as part of the Democratic Party in April.
Chatterji worked on the 2008 Obama campaign and served as a senior economist in the White House Council of Economic Advisers under the Obama Administration.
The treasurer’s post, he said, is an “unusually powerful position” because they are the sole fiduciary of a $95 billion pension fund for all state employees, according to a Duke Chronicle report.
The office manages the pension through choosing how to invest it, and also runs the state health plan and assists local governments with fiscal matters.
Chatterji said that as treasurer, he would improve the management of the pension by taking a “longer-term view” on investments in the state’s retirement system. Climate change, he emphasized, is the key issue.
Currently, there is not enough consideration of how issues around climate change will impact health reform and investments, the report said.
“I think we should take that as a challenge right now to make sure that we don't have assets that are stranded and we don't use a lot of money on investments gone bad because we're not taking the challenge to change them to the climate,” Chatterji said in the report.
With $95 billion, Chatterji said he can make a difference in how we perceive and act on climate change.
He added that within pension management, there needs to be a professional and diverse staff in place with the expertise to support the treasurer. There is not much diversity in the financial management industry, Chatterji said, and if elected, he would work on fixing this problem, it said.
He seeks to ensure that the healthcare program is adequately funded and that the state is adequately reimbursing hospitals for not just services delivered, but also quality of care. They also approve and issue all local and state bonds, which are used to build infrastructure like schools and rural broadband.
Recently endorsed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Chatterji emphasized that the treasurer not only manages budgets, but also has considerable “soft power” in advocating for individuals and families. With his attention and expertise, he believes he will be an effective advocate for families, according to the Chronicle.
Chatterji said that he was inspired to run after seeing the importance of elections and his potential to respond to big, looming challenges like climate change. His experiences in the White House and witnessing the 2010 redistricting of North Carolina played a role in his decision to campaign, it said.
The biggest challenge of the election, Chatterji noted, is not the campaigning, the travel nor the time, but “trying to get people to care.” He said that these smaller positions don’t attract people the way federal races do, although he argued that states and localities are more impactful on the lives of everyday people, according to the report.
“My theory is that if you don’t make these jobs matter, then the right people aren’t going to run for them and you’re not going to get good public servants,” he said. “So my message to people is you got to invest in your state and local races, you got to vote in your state and local races. And this is especially true for younger people,” Chatterji said in the report.