GOP candidates for State Auditor square off in forum, debate qualifications for the office

   

ST. LOUIS – The four Republican candidates seeking the party nomination for state auditor continue to push forward weeks before the August primary, and a Thursday night debate in St. Louis showed that the qualifications for the job could be the most important deciding factor in who wins the primary.

The candidate forum, sponsored by the St. Louis Young Republicans, quickly looked to address those concerns, as candidate David Wasinger touted the fact that of the four candidates, he is the only one who is a certified public accountant. He said that one of the top issues in this race will be whether the candidates are a CPA.

“For the past 50 or so years, it’s been held by a CPA. Voters look for that qualification,” he said. “The electorate wants someone qualified for this position.”

He said that being CPA will “be a huge campaign issue if you do not nominate a CPA.”

The other candidates, however, did not agree that being a CPA should be a litmus test for the office, with Kevin Roach, Paul Curtman, and Saundra McDowell all saying that the job is about being a watchdog for the people and seeing the problems that need to be addressed in Missouri.

Speaking before a small, packed room of listeners, Wasinger said people have lost faith in Missouri, and says that trust has to be restored so that the future generations stay, work, and love the state.

As one of the candidates not registered as a CPA, Curtman spoke to the audience, saying that the biggest need from the Auditor’s Office was leadership. He said he believed the state auditor should be more involved in the budget process, particularly in regard to spending requests from the various state departments.

Curtman took the fight to incumbent State Auditor Nicole Galloway, saying he’s the only one at the table who has attempted to work with the current auditor.

“I believe we have a state auditor who is not honest… There’s just no leadership there,” he said. “What good does an audit do if it just sits on a shelf and gathers dust?”

Another topic raised was that of campaign finances, to which Curtman said that it’s not true that whoever has the most money wins. He pointed to his previous campaigns, where he had been outspent and still was elected. He says it’s the people involved, not the money on a check.

Continuing in the conversation of ethics, McDowell said that the Clean Missouri proposal that would put redistricting into the hands of an independent entity appointed by the auditor, which she said definitely would politicize the office.

She also said that it was the taxpayers’ duty to put the right person in the office to fix corruption across the state.

“I’m appalled by all of the corruption,” she said. “Every time I talk to people, I hear about more, and the auditor can do something about it. Our court systems need to be audited, our cities need to be audited. If you find it and know where to look, you can do something about it. And I will do something about it.”

Roach, meanwhile, discussed his intent to place more focus on auditing the governmental bodies of the state. He says that the auditor’s role is simply to guarantee that taxpayer’s money is being used as intended, as the authority comes from the taxpayers.

“We have over 3,700 separate government entities in this state and they are living off of your tax dollars,” Roach said, telling the audience that one of the first things he will do is audit the Auditor’s Office, which he says is attributing to the “illusion of accountability.”

“We’ve got so much money being spent on government, and I’m the only candidate with a plan to get government entities operating more efficiently.”

Roach also the Auditor shouldn’t be evaluated on the number of audits, but instead on the dollars audited. He also called Galloway the worst auditor in 20 years, saying the number of audits conducted was low.

The candidates have roughly four weeks until voters decide which one will face off against incumbent Nicole Galloway, as well as other candidates including Libertarian Sean O’Toole of Kansas City, Green Party candidate Don Fitz of St. Louis and Constitution Party candidate Jacob Luetkemeyer of California.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.