Carolina Democracy

Saying Really Progressive Things in Really Conservative Language!

February 19, 2024 JD Wooten Season 3 Episode 6
Saying Really Progressive Things in Really Conservative Language!
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Saying Really Progressive Things in Really Conservative Language!
Feb 19, 2024 Season 3 Episode 6
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Wesley Harris, a three-term state representative from Mecklenburg County and candidate for North Carolina Treasurer. Plus, updates on expanded Medicaid enrollment and thoughts on the upcoming trials of the former president.

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Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Wesley Harris, a three-term state representative from Mecklenburg County and candidate for North Carolina Treasurer. Plus, updates on expanded Medicaid enrollment and thoughts on the upcoming trials of the former president.

Find Voting Sites:

Learn More About Wesley Harris:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

JD Wooten: With me today is Wesley Harris, three term state representative for Mecklenburg County and candidate for North Carolina treasurer. Welcome, Representative Harris. 

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Wesley Harris, a three-term state representative from Mecklenburg County and candidate for North Carolina Treasurer. I’ll let you learn all about Representative Harris through our interview, but it was a lot of fun and we definitely could have gone on for hours. That said, I also appreciate most of you wouldn’t likely listen for that long, and he’s got important campaigning to do, so we didn’t do that. Anyways, hope you enjoy it.

But first, here’s your reminder that the primary election is Tuesday, March 5th, only two weeks away. Early voting is open, and you can do same day registration at early voting, so go find a polling place and vote. I’ll leave a link the show notes to find early voting sites near you. If you’re not already registered to vote, and you do not go to an early voting site to complete the same day registration, you will not be able to vote on March 5th. Also, the deadline to request a mail-in absentee ballot is February 27th, but ballots must be back in the election office by election day, March 5th, so maybe don’t wait any longer.

Also, here’s some good news – Medicaid enrollment under the expanded program is at nearly 350,000. That’s out of the roughly 600,000 people who are believed to be eligible after Medicaid Expansion took effect on December 1st, so pretty solid start but lots of work left to do to get everyone who may be eligible signed up. It took a very long time and countless hours to get Medicaid expanded here in North Carolina, and we should never forget that Republican obstruction led to tens of thousands of people dying preventable deaths had we accepted the expansion we were already paying for earlier. But, let’s also not overlook a policy win and celebrate that we’re finally moving in the right direction. This is why we do the hard work.


In other news, reproductive freedom and health continue to be front and center, and probably will be at least through the general election. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson recently told a constituent that he would “absolutely” protect life from conception, and he was recorded further saying, quote “We’ve got to do it that same way they rolled it forward, we’ve got to do it the same way with rolling it back. We’ve got it down to 12 weeks. The next goal is to get it down to 6, and then just keep moving from there.” So there you go, that’s what we’re up against – Josh Stein is his most likely opponent and supports the framework of Roe v. Wade, while the most likely GOP nominee wants a total abortion ban from conception.


We also saw this debate pick up nationally as a story broke that former President Trump supports a national abortion ban at 16 weeks. Evidently, he didn’t want this to come out during the GOP primary because he was fearful that his position of 16 weeks would cost him support amongst his evangelical base who generally prefer a total or near total ban. It might also cost him with moderates and independents, and really just an overwhelming majority of Americans, who do not support such extreme restrictions. Again, I’m sure we’ll see this continue as a major issue of discussion at least through the general election.


And speaking of the former President, while we wait to find out about how his criminal matters may play out, he got hit with another major civil penalty for being an immoral and unethical con artist. A few weeks ago he was hit with a civil judgment for over $80 million for defaming a woman he sexually assaulted, and this week he got hit with a nearly $350 million verdict for his business fraud. He also can’t do business in New York for three years. Not as widely reported is that he also owes interest on that judgment, which started accruing a while ago, and has already topped $100 million I believe. So his actual financial liability to date, assuming these judgments aren’t overturned on appeal, is already well over half a billion dollars and growing. That’s got to sting.


On the criminal side, his D.C. trial related to election subversion is still on hold while the Supreme Court considers his appeal. Even Chris Christie, who was a former U.S. Attorney before becoming a governor, is on record as thinking the D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion on Trump’s lack of immunity was so air tight that the Supreme Court won’t take the case. I’m not quite as hopeful, but that would certainly speed things up. As a general matter, on something so obvious as the question of immunity from criminal prosecution, and where there’s no major differences of opinion between different circuit courts, the Supreme Court would usually stay out of it as there’s nothing really for them to resolve. But, given the weightiness of this decision, they may feel compelled to have the last word. And in a different case, the one involving allegedly illegal hush money payments in New York, that case will start March 25th. So at the end of next month, we’ll see a former president go on trial for the first time in American history. And the craziest part is that its only the first of several trial for several different, totally unrelated matters. He’s just that corrupt. And yet there’s a solid chunk of America who still believe he’s a better alternative for the job than President Biden. To call the situation surreal is an understatement.


Alrighty, enough on all of that. Let’s get to the interview with Representative Harris, hope you enjoy and thanks for tuning in!

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Wesley Harris: Ah, thanks, J. D. It's great to great to be here. Thanks for the invite. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, you bet. So, first time guest, first question I always give, what's your earliest memory of politics or getting involved in politics?

Wesley Harris: Yeah, that's a good question. My earliest memory of politics was was actually the 1992 election. So I was in kindergarten in, in 1992. And our school actually had a mock election and so I was super nervous and I remember asking my, my sister like eight times that day, every time I saw her, I was just like, who do we vote for again? Who do we vote for again? And she was like Bill Clinton and Jim Hunt. And so that was my earliest memory of, of politics. And then when 96 came along, that was the first one that I kind of knew what was going on.

But in terms of being active in politics, my first real real activity was the 2006 election. So that was when, halfway through George W. Bush's second term, where Democrats really took back control of the federal government, and so I was a I just finished my sophomore year in college, and so I was living up in actually I just finished my freshman year in college, and so I was living up in D. C. and I got a job with Campaigns Incorporated, which was actually paid canvassers. And there, they were like, literally knock on every door and try to raise money for Howard Dean's 50 state strategy. And so that was my first activist role in politics trying to get some funds for Howard Dean's 50 state strategy so we could win. We could take the Senate. We could take the house and it ended up working. That, that year was a huge democratic landslide. And so that's when the bug really set in and just like, all right, this is something worth fighting for and if you do fight for it, good things happen. 

JD Wooten: Well, I love all of that, and I appreciate that unlike a few of our younger guests that we've had on the podcast, your first memory of politics roughly aligns with where mine is, so I don't feel quite so out of date. I was interviewing someone else recently that, in an episode that will air at some point in the future, and he was telling me about his first memory of politics being the 2008 Obama election. And I was like, I mean, I remember that one well, but it's not because it was my first memory. 

Wesley Harris: Well, it's the opposite when you're on the campaign trail and, most rooms you go into tend towards the older side. And so when I, when I tell folks, I was in kindergarten when Jim Hunt was was elected for his third term in 92, they kind of roll back a little bit. 

JD Wooten: Oh, I remember those days well, and you start hearing about people talking about Jim Hunt's first race for Lieutenant Governor and how they were helping him. And you're like, okay, all right. Right. Well, different crowd. All right, so let's back up a little, your background. You grew up the youngest of four children. Your mother was a public school teacher. Your father was a local banker. I will know there's some interesting similarities there with my family that I found really fascinating. So I'm one of 4 children, although I'm on the other end of it, I'm the oldest. And on my father's side, my grandfather was a bank auditor and my grandmother was a public school teacher. So just drawing on my own experiences with that, I'm going to take a wild guess that some of that really influenced your political philosophy today, but how did those experiences with your parents' careers, and the big household, how did that shape your political philosophy today?

Wesley Harris: Yeah, that's a good question because, I think it's funny. We have similarities because I think it's a very North Carolina background. North Carolina in the south was we were an education state and we were a banking state. 

It taught me a lot of, just background in terms of finance and physical responsibility, but then also the need to have a government that invests in you. And so, I am who I am because of my public education and the fact that I went to a public school and then having a mom who was a public school teacher kind of brought that in because I remember, growing up maybe like middle school or something my dad like I said, he was a banker so he had great benefits and so but he said once they retired he was like thank god for your mom's pension and thank god for your mom's health care because that is enormously better than anything we could get it at a similar price point in the private market and that used to be what North Carolina was you invest in your people you invest in your state employees you invest in your educators and provide them with the gift of great health care and a great retirement And that's what makes people want to come to North Carolina and want to serve the people of North Carolina. And so that was something that's always, always struck with me of just the need of having that, I think every day that I grew up during that period of North Carolina where we were that leading area of, of making sure that we do invest in our people.

And, it was a time when, the economy was booming in North Carolina. Like I said, my dad was a banker and that was a huge period of, of expansion of the banking industry in North Carolina. And so those things don't happen overnight. They happen because of forward looking policymakers and forward looking policy of making the investments and looking ahead to what's not just happening this year, just like, oh, we're the number one state for business this year, but looking forward to say, are we making the investments we need to make so that we can continue to grow?

And so that the opportunities that we have today are going to pale in comparison to the opportunities in the future. And, growing up, I've seen us stop doing that, particularly in the last 12 to 14 years. And it lit a spark in me of just like, I didn't like seeing what was happening to our, to our state and so, here we are. 

JD Wooten: So you took that background and those experiences growing up and we'll get to a lot of those other issues of what's going on in North Carolina now and how we fix them in a moment, but keeping on your background. You decided to go get a Ph.D. in economics, and that makes you the only Ph.D. economist in the North Carolina General Assembly, despite all those important things that you were just talking about that our state government is responsible for. So, I'm curious, what led you to the economics field and wanting to pursue a doctorate in economics? 

Wesley Harris: Yeah, no, that, that's a great question, because I actually had no intention of majoring in economics. I went to Carolina for undergrad and I was interested in politics. I thought I was going to be a poli sci and history double major, then go off to law school and then. Go forth and save the world as best I can. But growing up, my favorite subjects were always, it was history, it was politics, and it was math. And my very first class at Carolina was Econ 10 in a giant 450 person lecture hall. And as I was sitting there, I'm just like this is it. This is this is everything I love. Like this is you. There are politics in this. There is math in this. There is history of this and like put your hands together and it's it's economics and because I saw it as a tool to answer all the questions that I had growing up about what role does the government have on our lives?

And, on the political sector, what role should the government have in our lives? And so yeah decided decided to major in econ, went all the way through and I loved it and then in terms of going to get a Ph.D. A lot of it was, my interest in econ, but a lot of it was circumstances. So I graduated undergrad in 2009, so fall semester, my senior year, as I'm literally putting together job applications, trying to figure out what's going to happen, the entire global economy collapses with the financial crisis. And so, I was always interested in econ, like I was, I wanted a job, , I wanted, I wanted to go out and start, start making money. But there weren't too many jobs available by the time spring 2009 came around, so I started talking to a few professors, and they were like, have you thought about going to grad school? And so I did, , applied to a few, ended up going down to Clemson. they gave me a fellowship down there, and the thought was, I am excited to do this, and hopefully, after five years the economy will rebound a little bit, we'll be in much better shape, but going to grad school, It was incredible because again, it just you think a lot after you graduate from undergrad. I mean, like you're like, oh, I'm so wise. I'm so brilliant. I got my undergrad degree with honors, it's great. And then you go to grad school and you're like know nothing, absolutely nothing. And so it, it taught me so much not only about like how the world works, but also my political philosophy.

So, I grew up in Alexander County. So I thought I was this, this liberal blue dot in a sea of red. Then I went to Carolina, and I was like, okay, well, maybe I'm not that liberal and maybe I'm pretty moderate and then went down to Clemson which is an upstate South Carolina and actually has one of the most conservative economic programs in the country. And I was like, okay, okay, I am I do, I do have a progressive streak of what I think government should do, but living in that and learning in that environment really changed my it made me come to terms with what I truly believe. And people argued with me all the time. The professors argued with me. Other classmates argued with me because they very much lean conservative. And so to survive you had to defend your actions. And so that requires you to really dive deep into what you believe, why you believe it, then be able to back that up with evidence of how the economy works, how history works and how everything works. And so I was able to leave grad school with a not only a great skill set in a way to look at the world, but actually being more in tune with why I feel the way I feel, which I think a lot of people don't get today, particularly on social media, we're all in our echo chambers of you have an idea and you're surrounded by a lot of people who have the exact same idea. So that idea is never really questioned. And if it is questioned, you're surrounded by so many people who agree with you. You're like, oh, I can't be wrong. They're the wrong ones. And so, being in that other room really taught me to be like, no. Like, there are some weaknesses in some of the way I feel about things. And you have to come to terms, doesn't mean you're wrong. But coming to terms with that actually makes your argument better. And one of the big things I learned was, you can say really progressive things in really conservative language, and I wish more Democrats would do that. I wish more Democrats would understand that. And we would be able to build, because a lot of people agree fundamentally what we're trying to do. It's just making that level of communication and breaking it down so that we all understand each other and are coming at it from the same place, and grad school taught me more of that than anything. And so I, I am so thankful I was able to able to experience that and and also thankful that the economy had rebounded by the time I graduated, so was able to get a job that go forth and be able to be able to serve the state like I am right now. 

JD Wooten: Three things that come to mind immediately on what you just shared, one, my lowest grade, as opposed to econ or stats, was boxing. It never had a click moment. But thankfully I never decided to go on and study boxing at a graduate degree level, I might not be here. Two, the idea that you would get through all that training, your undergrad, etc., and then get out and get to the next level and realize, oh my gosh, there's so much, I still don't know. I had that feeling after undergrad. I had that feeling after graduate program. I have that feeling even after law school and getting into the workforce and realizing, oh, I just spent three years studying law and how to be a lawyer, and they didn't teach me anything about the practice of law. They taught me about the theory of law. Now I need to figure out how to actually do this in a courtroom. That's, that's fascinating. And the final thing I'll, I'll touch on, I loved what you said about progressive ideas being repackaged approachable or conservative language, I think one of the hot button issues that has been since the Dobbs decision and will continue to be this election cycle for a lot of our races up and down the ballot, reproductive freedom and access to health care. When you actually get into the polling and talk to people, even very conservative voters as a state rep, I'm sure you've encountered this. There are a lot of deeply held values in the conservative world about personal choices. But then when it comes to, well, despite what I think is right for me or my family, ethically, morally, I still don't want the government in my business. And so we end up finding allies on the conservative side of the aisle for a whole different set of reasons, but still allies in the policy outcomes. 

Wesley Harris: Exactly. And since I've been in the legislature, I've met other legislators from across the country. And so actually, right after Dobbs right before the Kansas referendum, I was at a conference and met probably like eight Kansas legislators. And so they were talking about that and then after the Kansas referendum, I was like, what works for y'all? That was deep red Kansas. And they actually say it was like, well, Kansas has a history of this, going back to bleeding Kansas. Kansas was a free state and they voted to be a free state. And so, it runs deep in there of this idea of freedom, this idea of having control of your own destiny and the freedom of choice and not having the government want to take that away. And so, that's how we message it, in some of the urban rural areas, it was, it was an abortion message. It was a pro abortion message. It was a healthcare message, but in the, in the rural areas, it was, it was, it was a freedom message and it was an opportunity message and and like that's again at the end of the day, politics is about building a coalition you build the coalition you need to build. However, you need to build it to make sure you can put forward your policy agenda. And I wish we could take more of that particularly North Carolina. So, going back to grad school, I wrote my dissertation on political geography which a lot of people don't, don't think that's a, that's an economic thing, but it is because political geography determines what our government's going to be, what our representatives are going to be, which determines the economic policies that we're going to have, particularly tax based policies and spending based policies. And so, understanding the diversity of a state like North Carolina, or like Kansas, and using that knowledge of how people feel based on their shared experiences growing up can help you build that coalition you need to put forward ideals that you all agree on. You may not agree on exactly how to put forward the ideas like the practicality of the policy of it, but if you can all agree on those basic ideals, that can at least bring you together and you can craft a solution that at least everyone can get behind. 

JD Wooten: Couldn't agree more and I love where this conversation is going and we could dive into this all day long, but I do want to make sure that at some point we transition to talking about your race for State Treasurer. I asked Senator Marcus kind of the same question about her time and you came into the State House in that same election 2018, You ran for the State House, had a very competitive race, and so you were in that class 2018 that broke the super majority and you've been an outspoken champion for so many good Democratic causes since then. But just to put a bow on this part of what led to today, if you had to pick one thing in the biography of Wesley Harris, talking about your three terms in the State House, what would you hope that somebody would write about? 

Wesley Harris: That's a great question. And, kind of what I hope is the importance of having a skill set, of having a very specific skill set. Because you learn that running, running, everybody runs on pretty much the same thing. If you're a Democrat, you run on, you run on health care, you run on education, you run on investing in your communities. But then when you get in office, you gotta pick your lane because you all get your committee assignments, you all go to things, and then you're like, okay, how am I going to make my mark. And I grew up son of a public school teacher, very passionate about public education, but our entire caucus is very passionate about education, and so when it's like, who's, who's going to lead this education model, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen for education policy, and I said, okay, well, if I want to make my name known, if I want to really make a difference and have people, trust me and be a leader in the issue, I gotta, I gotta find my, my niche area. My first poli sci class in college, like what our professor told us that it's like, you'd be a specialist in something. And then when that issue comes before the body, everyone will come to you. And that is how that is how you build prestige. That is how you build power. That is how you build understanding of people come to you. And so I took that with me when I was elected. And so what I hope people think of me is the finance guy. And that's honestly, that's why I'm running for treasurer now. Like public finance that was my specialty in grad school, like, it is a very specific subject, and, but it controls everything and me and my, my good friend Brandon Lofton, who, who represents, beside of me, here in Charlotte, he's a public finance attorney, and so we just, we, we mesh very well, just like, yeah, y'all can, y'all can go do education things, y'all can go do healthcare things, Brandon, I will focus on taxes.

Because like they matter because you can't spend anything unless you raise it. And so we we became kind of the Democratic leaders for for finance and tax policy and and that led into the budget. Because, like I said, the budget is doling out all this money, but how much money you can dole out depends on your tax structure. And so that led to me being one of the leaders for our budget policy, our budget debate, our budget strategy. And so, if anything, it's just like the importance of understanding our tax system. It's not about just how much money can we raise, it's who pays that. Who pays our actual taxes and who bears the burden of financing our government? Because as we spend that money, it benefits certain people., but if there is an outsized burden on certain groups of people that aren't getting their fair share, like that's when people start pulling back from the system. And, and, in North Carolina, we have a huge urban rural divide. And as our tax system has changed aggressively since Republicans have taken over in 2010, it has really changed who is bearing the burden of who finances our government. Republicans like to talk about their tax cuts on the statewide level, but in reality, they're just pushing that burden on other folks, because those services need to be provided, and what we're seeing is, is pushing it onto our local governments, our county governments, our municipal governments, and in the last year, 90 counties have to raise property taxes, and so if you're on the low end of the income spectrum, you're not paying much in income tax anyway. And so these income taxes aren't really affecting you. The corporate taxes aren't affecting you. But your property taxes sure as hell are affecting you. And we're seeing our system get more and more regressive, where we're able to provide less and less services. And shifting more and more burden onto the people who are least able to afford it. And so, if anything I hope people take from my time in the legislature, it's bringing that issue to the forefront. Particularly in our caucus, just like, it is how we finance our government that is the most important thing and that drives a lot of the political outcomes that drives a lot of the political feelings people have and it's important It's not about just spending the money It's how we're getting this money so we can have a much more efficient government and and that's an issue that impacts every single district across the state. 

JD Wooten: So my next question was going to be why State Treasurer, but I think you've basically answered that now as the expert in finance and the budgetary issues. So instead, let me, let me ask it this way. Then for the benefit of our listeners, what are the primary duties and responsibilities of the State Treasurer here in North Carolina?

Wesley Harris: Yeah, Treasurer's one of the more powerful positions on the council of state in the sense that it runs the pension plan for all of our, our state employees and educators when they retire, like they, they get a pension and so the treasurer is responsible for investing that pension plan and making sure we can give give a quality retirement to our to people who dedicated their lives and services to North Carolina. It also runs the state health plan which is very much in the news in recent weeks and recent months because of the switch from, from Blue Cross to Aetna and then also pulling back of the state plan of covering GLP ones but the weight loss drugs like Wegovy and whatnot that they're pulling out of the state health plan. And so it impacts a lot of people because again for particularly with state employees You are never going to make the money you could make in the private sector, but it's a different type of job. It's not the corporate job you don't have to deal with a lot of the corporate nonsense. But you're gonna pay a cost for that by not getting that high dollar that these private firms can hire you but one thing that the state government can offer you for public servants is great benefits and a great retirement. And so in that regard, the treasurer's role is absolutely critical to making sure that we can provide the benefits that our state employees need to attract the best and brightest to want to come serve the people of North Carolina. And that's particularly something that's really gone down the last couple of years. Our pension plan is not keeping pace with, with market market indices. You got to take advantage of good times. And if you don't have those returns you can't give those back to retirees, and so you can't give them cost of living adjustments.

And one of the other big jobs of the treasurer that, a lot of people don't understand because they don't even know it exists in North Carolina, is it chairs the local government commission. In the sense that North Carolina is one of the only states in the country that has a local government commission, where if any county or municipal government wants to borrow money to finance an infrastructure investment, it first has to be approved by this, by this LGC, by the local government commission that the treasurer is the chair of. And so it's only one vote on there, but the fact that he is the chair can dictate what the agenda is going to be and have a little bit more and more sway in there. And that goes back to what I was saying about the public finance arena of, of our government as the state does less and less, that pushes much more responsibility onto our county local governments, which they need to make these investments. And so understanding how everything ties together is going to impact how much your county can go.

Going going back to what I said, it's who's bearing the burden of providing our government of we all can agree that services need to be provided, but then the debate is, okay, well, who's going to pay for it? And how are we going to pay for it? And, , having that forward looking approach is something big because, , there are a lot of counties , they need to make these investments, and it's hard for them to make the investments because they're having to do so much that the state should be doing. And so I think one of the critical roles of the treasurer, aside from the official duties, we're chief financial officer of the state, and chief financial officer of the state is responsible for telling everybody what the finances of the state are. And so going around the state, showing people the impacts of these tax cuts, showing people the impact of, of school bonds, of transportation bonds, of where everything's going, so that they understand what these, what impact these decisions have on their lives. And because the more informed people are about how we're financing our government, the better they can hold their elected officials accountable. I think that is one of the biggest responsibilities so that people have a better understanding of how our state government's working so that they can hold our elected officials accountable and get a government that works for works for all of us much better.

JD Wooten: Well, I think that's the most convincing sell of the importance of the treasurer I've ever heard and still tying it to the everyday North Carolinian issues. What's your top policy priority when you take office? 

Wesley Harris: The big one is making sure our retirement plan and our state health plan are, are on solid footing. There's a crisis afoot for both of those in the sense that, like I said earlier, our pension plan has not been performing the way it should have to be able to give our retirees a cost of living adjustment, which usually was never that bad of a thing because we never had inflation. We had very low inflation, so while they wanted cost of living adjustments, it wasn't as dire as it is now. Because once you retire you're kind of locked in with what your retirement payments are going to be and so as cost of living rises particularly with inflation last couple years that really takes a bite out of your purchasing power and the quality of your retirement. And so we have to boost the returns of our pension plan so we can provide those cost of living adjustments and put our retirees in better shape because young people are seeing this as they're in school and they're like, what do I want my career to be? And the thing is, like, work for us, we'll give you a nice, we'll give you a salary. I'm not going to say nice salary for particularly now, but then we'll give you great benefits when you retire, but you don't get health benefits when you retire anymore as a state employee. And if you can't even promise a cost of living adjustment, then that's going to have a lot of people be like, I can't do this. Even if you feel passionate about public service, you got to pay your bills. You got to put food on your table. So that's a big one. 

And then the state health plan. That is, and a lot of it goes back to our hiring and vacancy crisis in state employment, which again was back to what I said of, you can only hire people by giving them salaries or giving them benefits and the level of benefits were able to get depends on how much money we have in that system to negotiate with hospitals to negotiate with pharmaceutical plans. And as we have a huge vacancy, we have about a 25 percent vacancy in state employment right now. That is young people not coming to work. And so if you don't have young people entering public service in the level that they used to that means that the age and the health of our current stock of state employees, it's getting older and getting more expensive in terms of health care as they're approaching retirement. And so, one of the big ways to make these systems much more solvent is getting young folks to come in and want to be state employees. Because they're going to pay into the system, particularly if they weren't there in their entire career, they're going to pay 30, 35 years into the retirement system. We can invest those money and help give retirees today a better benefit and keep the whole system solvent. And they're young and they're healthy. And so if we focus on wellness programs and focus on preventative care, we can keep our stock of state employees so much healthier, which can lower the overall cost of healthcare. And so those are the two big ones, getting, getting those two in order of, of some solvency so we can continue to provide that that pension plan for our for our retirees and the benefits for our state employees so we can make it attractive for people who want to come. And so those things I think are the, the biggest priorities coming into the coming into the Treasurer's Office to put us on much better financial footing so that we all benefit.

JD Wooten: So I had a note here to make sure that I asked, given the importance of our state employees and and the treasurer's role in that I had a note to ask what you're going to do to protect them moving into the future. I think you just hit that. You've made a big point in your campaign platform about the state treasurer's office staying out of the culture wars. So how will you implement that strategy as you treat everyone in the state with dignity and respect? 

Wesley Harris: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that the current culture wars are taking that dignity and respect away from people and using that for partisan gain. And you gotta respect folks. And you gotta respect who people are and what they want to do with their lives. And our job is to let people be comfortable being who they are and us providing the opportunity that everybody can succeed because we all do better when we all do better. Opportunity is not a zero sum game. We want to make sure that everyone has every opportunity to go to a great public school, to go to college, to start a career. My dream education platform is it should be equipped for people to monetize their passion. We learn the basics. And then particularly when we get in high school and some of these technical trainings, like learn the basics of life, , reading, writing, arithmetic, all that stuff. And then find out what you love, find out what you love, find out what you enjoy. And let's find out how you can make a living doing that. And not force people into something that we think you should do. Like, oh, we think you should go to a four year college. We think you should go to a technical school. It's like, what do you enjoy? What do you see yourself doing? And then let's, let's do what we can to give you the tools to make that. Because we need artists. We need technical skills. We need welders. We need all these things. We need college graduates. We need architects. We need doctors. We need lawyers. We need economists. But we need people who love what they do. And so, like, our entire system should be based on that, of, like, be comfortable being you, be comfortable with your background, be comfortable with what you're doing, and then our job should be, like, how can we help? How can we lift up our folks so that everyone does what they're best at? And we all benefit from that. And so I think, , that's what it means by taking the culture wars out of it, of just, like, providing the framework so that people can pursue their dreams so people have the opportunity to pursue the American dream like that is America people come here because of how they were treated in in other parts of the world and in other countries. And so that is that is why we are what we are today and our government should always reflect that it's it's about opportunity. It's about lifting folks up. It's about making people happy and making people productive members of society and you can't do that when you're trying to tear people down and divide people just for partisan gain. 

JD Wooten: I don't know that there's a better note we could end on. So with that and being sensitive to your time and knowing you've got a lot of work ahead of you to win this primary and this race, most important question of the day, where can people go to learn more about you, your campaign, volunteer, donate, so forth?

Wesley Harris: Absolutely. And thank you again for having me. Again, you can check out our website harris4nc. com, or you can, you can follow us on Twitter, or I guess X as it is right now, Wesley Harris NC, you're on Instagram Wesley Harris NC. And so we always try to. Try to put out a lot of content of what's going on. But yeah, we got a primary coming up in a couple days And so I need your support to make sure we can get through. This is an important race and not only that like it reflects our values as Democrats across the state and can show how we can really build a true coalition to not only win statewide races, but have that filter down to our legislature. And so thank you again for having me and I hope we can all join in on our campaign and make this the North Carolina we all know it can be. 

JD Wooten: Well, thanks so much for joining us today, Representative Harris. It's been a real pleasure. 

Wesley Harris: Yeah, thank you, enjoyed it.

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JD Wooten: Thank you again to everyone for listening. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, please send me an email at And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!


Interview with Wesley Harris
Closing Notes