Duke professor Aaron Chatterji to run for Treasurer of North Carolina

Aaron ‘Ronnie’ Chatterji.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Aaron ‘Ronnie’ Chatterji, a tenured Associate Professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, who previously served as a Senior Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, has declared his intent to run for Treasurer of North Carolina in 2020.

Chatterji is an alumnus of the Washington Leadership Program (Class of 1999), conceived and sponsored by the founder and erstwhile publisher of India Abroad—the late Gopal Raju—who ran WLP for over 15 years. Chatterji, as a WLP scholar interned with Rep. Elliot Engel (D.-N.Y.), now the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In a note to friends last week, Chatterji in saying he wants to “share some exciting news with you,” said that he had decided to run for Treasurer of North Carolina in 2020, “building on my long-standing passion for policy, business, and public service.”

He acknowledged in his missive that “my research and teaching have led me directly to this decision. I love the work I do and I believe that rigorous analysis is the foundation of good policy.”

“My public service, from working at the White House Council of Economic Advisers to volunteering on political campaigns, has taught me that translating good analysis into clear and concise language and engaging stakeholders is essential too,” he added.

Chatterji argued, “The final piece of the puzzle is that dedicated and practical people need to run for office and get elected,” and while acknowledging that “the financial and personal sacrifice required keeps most of us away,” said, “But after many discussions with family and friends, I have decided that some of us must try and that I’m going to go for it.”

“North Carolina’s Treasurer has important responsibilities that overlap with my academic and policy experience,” he noted and pointed out that “the Treasurer manages the state’s $95 billion retirement system and the $3 billion state employee health plan. Unlike most states where a board of elected and appointed officials perform these functions, in North Carolina, it is the state Treasurer who has this responsibility. Who that person is matters and their background and preparation can make a difference.”

Chatterji said, “I aim to leverage my research and practical experience on issues like health care innovation, socially responsible investing and corporate governance to serve my state as its next Treasurer,” and wrote, “I look forward to reaching out to many of you in the days to come to tell you more about my plans and seek your counsel.”

The North Carolina Treasurer is an elected executive position in the state government, who serves as the state’s chief financial officer and official banker for the state. The treasurer's office manages the state's retirement system, investments, and unclaimed property, and provides financial support to local governments.

The state’s current officeholder is Republican Dale Folwell, who was elected to the position in 2016 and was sworn into office on January 1, 2017 after beating Democrat Dan Blue by 52.75 percent to 47.25 percent, and is expected to run again in 2020, and if Chatterji is the Democratic nominee, he will be up against a powerful and entrenched GOP establishment bent on holding on to this office.

Chatterji during his tenure with the CEA at the White House worked on a range of policies relating to entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic growth, and after leaving the Obama administration and joining the faculty of Duke University’s business school and continued to research and teach some of these important forces shaping the U.S. and global economy, and has been regularly published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

In 2014-2015 academic year, he was on leave at Harvard Business School, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Previously, before joining the Obama administration, he worked as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs. He received his Ph.D from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and his B.A. in economics and international relations from Cornell University.

From the time he did the WLP internship, Chatterji has continued to be a political activist and in 2008 he was a key organizer in North Carolina for Obama, and in previous interviews with India Abroad, would always acknowledge the profound impact this program had in his activism and public service.

He said that when he worked for Rep. Engel, he “quickly discovered how important public policy was in shaping the business environment and global economy.”

Chatterji led South Asians for Obama’s (SAFO) efforts in the state, hosting events in Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte, and spoke of how “I was amazed by the number of South Asians who came to our events and was heartened by their enthusiasm.”

“I also used my economic expertise to help the larger campaign effort, serving on two economic policy committees and speaking as an economic surrogate at events around the state,” he said.

Chatterji said at the time that he believed it was that election “where the new generation of South Asian Americans left their mark, leading our community and proving that change really does come from the bottom up.”

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