Political notebook: Rowan native, treasurer candidate announces local endorsements
By Liz Moomey
SALISBURY — After Salisbury native Matt Leatherman filed for state treasurer, he picked up several endorsement from Salisbury and Spencer leaders.
Leatherman, who is running as a Democrat, was endorsed by Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins and council members David Post and Tamara Sheffield. That’s in addition to Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams and Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Hovis.
Leatherman said gaining support from local government officials has been his campaign’s priority.
“The treasurer’s office is and has to be a partner for our local governments,” Leatherman said. “The treasurer’s office is responsible for managing all of the bonds that local government, like Salisbury, Spencer, Rowan County, would issue.”
Leatherman was the policy director for former State Treasurer Janet Cowell, which sets him apart, Heggins said.
“Matt brings the experience necessary to oversee the treasurer’s office,” Heggins said. “I know Matt will get the work done because he already has, from investing in North Carolina to elevating the priority on our critical school construction needs. As a native of Rowan County, we can trust Matt to prioritize people beyond Raleigh.”
Sheffield said Leatherman has the experience and the passion to make North Carolina better.
Spencer needs a leader that understands the town’s challenges and has the willingness to work with them, she said.
“Our state’s problems can’t be solved unless we are honest about what they are and commit to bringing a broad coalition of shareholders together so that nobody is left behind,” Hovis said. “My community needs a treasurer that understands our challenges and has the impetus to work with us to solve them.”
Leatherman has two Democratic primary challengers, Rinnie Catterji and Dimple Ajmera. Current State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a Republican, is running for re-election.
Getting endorsements early in the campaign is meaningful to Leatherman.
“My campaign is gaining momentum, that we’re earning enthusiasm and energy behind it,” he said. “I am so proud and thankful to have that support at this particular stage of the campaign. It’s going to allow my campaign to really reach out to broader and broader people ahead of the primary, so that we can earn their support as voters as well.”
Leatherman said as treasurer, the department needs to parter with communities to ensure they are ready to work and ready for people to live in them, whether that involves improving schools, drinking water, roads or hospitals through bond money.
Leatherman has been listening and covering the state, traveling from Wilmington to Canton, which is west of Asheville. Leatherman says he is speaking to educators and state employees because they depend on the office for health and retirement benefits. He has been talking to local government officials because of their infrastructure needs. He is also learning about the communities of doctors and nurses.
Leatherman is open about his choice to run for office. His daughter, Josie, was born prematurely, weighing only 1.5 pounds. She stayed in neonatal intensive care for 142 days.
Because his wife, Keisha, is a teacher, his family falls under the State Health Plan, which Leatherman said Folwell is cutting back on. The Leathermans also rely on Medicaid for Josie’s medication.
His daughter’s story has a happy ending, but Leatherman knows some have ended in tragedy.
“The biggest contributions I have gotten to my campaign are not financial. They are families lending me those stories to uplift and find purpose,” he said. “I treat that very solemnly.”
The issue transcends partisanship, he says.
Because his family is a Medicaid family, Leatherman said, he will “step forward as the foremost champion of Medicaid expansion as a statewide-elected official.”
Leatherman will be slowing down his campaigning during the holidays to spend some time with his family, including his father, John Leatherman, the former chairman of the Rowan County Republican Party.