JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – When asked what sets her apart from the other three candidates in the August primary race for the GOP nomination to run for state auditor, Saundra McDowell can answer with one single word: leadership.
McDowell, an attorney from Jefferson City has not held a public elected office, but she says her career has situated her to be the best GOP candidate to take down the Democratic incumbent, Nicole Galloway, in the November general election.
A military veteran, McDowell served eight years in the Air Force after high school as an airman medical tech, stationed overseas at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Kaiserslautern, Germany following 9/11, where she was one of the med techs who worked with Jessica Lynch after her rescue.
McDowell joined the military, with the ultimate goal of going to college and then law school. While in law school, she met her husband, Jonathan, and decided to move to Missouri. They now live in Jefferson City with their five children.
After graduating from Regent University Law School, she worked as an assistant general under former Attorney General Chris Koster, where she managed teams of accountants and investigators in the fight against those who seek to cheat Missourians while investigating Medicaid fraud.
After that, she took a job with Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office as the director of enforcement in the securities division, where her team worked to prosecuted financial institutions and con artists and return millions of dollars to individual Missouri investors and residents, a job she says she really enjoyed.
But McDowell said that she felt a calling to run for the Auditor’s office, saying that her experience in both the Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of State’s office have given her insight and experience to be the most effective auditor.
“I started thinking about running when I began hearing about some of the problems in the Auditor’s Office, and just kept hearing that there were a lot of problems there,” she said. “I really felt like this was something I should do.”
If elected as the GOP’s nominee to face Galloway, McDowell says she believes that she has the edge to face the Democrat with credibility as both an experienced lawyer and a woman. Her roles in both the Attorney General and Secretary of State’s office have given her valuable experience as an investigator and working with audits.
“I think I am the best candidate because I really do have the full package to go against Nicole Galloway,” she said. “I have more experience leading auditors and investigators than she does, I have been doing several different types of audits and investigations, and I already know the state agencies.”
“I’ve always enjoyed fixing problems, whether it was medical problems while in service or fixing legal problems, or whether it will be fixing problems in the auditor’s office,” she said.
McDowell says that along the campaign trail, she has continued to meet with more people who have discussed their issues, and that her list of things to do as state auditor has only kept growing.
She says that one of her top priorities would be to fix some of the issues in the auditor’s office and fight corruption, with her first emphasis being more training for the auditing staff, while also looking over the audits that have been conducted already. She said she wants to also set up all of the audits on a rotational basis so as to get every county under the auditor’s jurisdiction audited in a rough three-year period.
She says she would also like to see some of the funds that have been set up for various agencies, departments and boards and evaluate whether the money was even being used, potentially freeing it up for the legislature to use in their budget planning.
On the campaign trail, McDowell has made a point of trying to meet with as many locally elected officials as she can, and has made stops at more than 40 Lincoln Days as well as other events to get her message out. She’s logged thousands of miles in the car, and in that time, she says the one thing people seem to want the most is an auditor who will work with them.
“They want to be able to call the State Auditor and ask questions, and to not be worried about the State Auditor coming in and auditing them when they need advice and education,” she said. “Everyone wants to see our counties succeed, so we should all be on the same page with that.”
She notes that being an attorney could be an advantage for her, as for the last 50 years or so, Missouri has only elected lawyers or CPAs to the office.
“I think that some of the best auditors we have had have been attorneys,” she said, referencing Kit Bond, John Ashcroft, and the late Tom Schweich. Being a veteran, being an attorney, and also a female with young children, I think it makes me the best candidate to take on Galloway.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.