August 28, 2020
Featuring candidates for Supreme Court Chief Justice, Treasurer, Superintendent, and Insurance Commissioner
Over 100 union members gathered in a zoom meeting Thursday evening to participate in a virtual town hall with four statewide candidates in North Carolina. This town hall, the third and final in the state AFL-CIO’s “Labor 2020” series, featured Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Jen Mangrum, candidate for State Treasurer Ronnie Chatterji, and candidate for State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. The event highlighted the importance of these races to working families in North Carolina and the opportunities for progress that new leadership will bring.
Candidates opened by emphasizing the experiences that they bring to the table. Incumbent Chief Justice Beasley described the measures she has taken as leader of the NC court system during the pandemic. “Through drivers’ license restoration and a whole host of other programs, we’ve been able to help working people who are having a difficult time right now,” she said.
On a question about the court system’s role in ensuring equal justice under the law, she committed to using her leadership position to address these issues. “As the chief justice,” she said, “it’s my responsibility to acknowledge that there are racial and gender disparities in our courts and to find solutions around that.”
“I am a nerd, not a politician,” declared Ronnie Chatterji, the labor-endorsed candidate for NC Treasurer. State employees rely on the Treasurer to make good decisions with their retirement money and health plans, and Chatterji called out incumbent Treasurer Dale Folwell for blunders in management. “If that money is invested incorrectly, if there are conflicts of interest, if we have people who don’t know much about finance or markets in that role–a politician, not a nerd–you are going to get bad results.”
Chatterji pointed to Folwell’s attempt at restructuring the health plan of state employees. “Dale Folwell failed, and as a result our state employees were left without having a children’s hospital, cancer hospital, or tertiary care in their network.”
Jen Mangrum, the child of two teachers, emphasized her connection and investment in the school system. “When I was 14, right before school, my mom had a massive heart attack. I came in, held her, watched her pass away. The paramedics took her and my father, leaving me home alone. And not knowing what to do, I walked to school that day. I went because I knew school was a place where I would be accepted, there were compassionate people, they’d take care of me. And they did.”
Mangrum called out the lack of leadership in North Carolina’s public schools around student and teacher safety during the pandemic and her vision for schools that create a healthy learning environment. “We’ve had two decades of children not getting the quality education they deserve,” she said. “It’s been focused on big tech, the GDP, high stakes testing, because all those things meen money to someone, but not to us. It’s time we focus on our children’s wellbeing, on their curiosity, and on their ability to explore their passions.”
Wayne Goodwin, former two-term Insurance Commissioner, talked about the progress he made during his previous time in office. “Through rate cuts, refunds, rebates, and restitution, I was able to save us 2.4 billion dollars,” he said. “I believe my work is not yet finished. There’s more to be done so that working families have health insurance, so that working families are safe in the workplace, so that folks have the lowest [priced] and fairest auto insurance and homeowners’ insurance they can obtain.”
Goodwin condemned incumbent Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey for not holding rate hearings during his term. “There’s a vital role to be had not only for transparency, but in being able to hold the insurance industry’s feet to the fire,” he said.
Candidates also took questions from members about fair wages for firefighters, their priorities for working people, the role of the courts in checking legislative overreach, and support for non-classified staff in schools like bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
How you can help
NC AFL-CIO staff shared opportunities for attendees to support the campaigns of these candidates and others the labor movement has endorsed.
Candidates closed out the night by calling on voters and members to turn out to vote in November. Wayne Goodwin highlighted the ways he could work with Chatterji, Mangrum, and other Council of State candidates once in office–including Jessica Holmes as NC Labor Commissioner, Yvonne Holley as Lt. Governor, Jenna Wadsworth as Agriculture Commissioner, Josh Stein as Attorney General, and Beth Wood as Auditor.
“Victory for all of us in november will be victory for working families across the state like we haven’t seen in our lifetime,” said Goodwin.
Register now for the 63rd Annual Convention
The NC AFL-CIO’s 63rd Annual Convention will be held online via Zoom, September 24-25, 2020. Featured speakers will include Governor Roy Cooper, candidates Cal Cunningham and Jessica Holmes, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, and International Vice President of USW Fred Redmond. Affiliated local unions and union councils and their authorized guests can pre-register for the convention online at bit.ly/ncafl63rdtix.