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NBC Meet the Press: Gabriel Esparza looks to be North Carolina’s first Latino statewide official

AUGUST 11, 2023

Democrat Gabriel Esparza announced his candidacy for North Carolina state treasurer Thursday, aiming to become the first Latino statewide official elected in the Tarheel State.

Esparza is running in a Democratic primary that includes state Rep. Wesley Harris, State Rep. John Bradford III and Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch are among the Republicans also running to replace Dale Folwell, the state’s current treasurer, who is running for governor.

“I believe that my candidacy will not only appeal to traditional Democrats, but to the large base of unaffiliated voters that we have in North Carolina, as well as potentially some crossover Republican voters,” Esparza said in an interview with NBC News, adding that “my financial background, my work in public safety, and my positions relative to education” could appeal to GOP voters as well.

As the great-grandson of immigrants from Mexico on his father’s side and Eastern European Jews on his mother’s side who worked in social work and mental health, Esparza said living in a bilingual and bicultural household has “always been about doing right by others and giving back.” 

He added that his goal is to represent Latino voters while turning them out to vote in next year’s election in a way that provides “all of us an opportunity to win in November.”

“While we have 1.1 million Latinos in this state, at the same time, we have zero Latinos in the General Assembly. For a population that is now 11% of the state, to have zero political power in terms of representation in the state legislature, that’s not okay,” Esparza said.

North Carolina is also a battleground state in the 2024 presidential race, and Esparza plans to turn out the Latino vote during his campaign. If elected, Esparza said his top priorities are addressing the state health care plan, the $114 billion state pension fund for retirees, and strengthening state finances on local, city and municipality levels and for education. 

Esparza has spent more than 25 years working in business, working for American Express, for a startup that helps provide 9-1-1 dispatchers with data to help them in emergencies, and most recently in the Small Business Administration in the Office of International Trade. He has also worked as an investor and he is involved in community initiatives regarding education for younger generations and at-risk youth.

“To have a business person, somebody with financial expertise, business expertise, is something that Democrats haven’t historically done and this is also an important differentiator for us in this race,” he told NBC News. “Not only will I be in a better position to govern, but even during the campaign, I will be able to and am already outraising my opponents in this effort.”

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