JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri state Representative Paul Curtman has spent a lifetime in service: he’s served his country as a Marine, a brotherhood from which one never truly leaves; and for the last eight years, he’s been a constitutional conservative stalwart in the Missouri House of Representatives, serving as the head of two legislative oversight committees and also working as a financial adviser.
Those lessons have shaped him into the man he is today, a man who believes in serving the people, in honesty and integrity, and about doing the right thing.
The GOP primary for State Auditor has been an interesting one to watch, with four candidates with very different backgrounds all vying for the nomination, but it’s also remained a very civil one. All of the candidates have avoided attacks on the other candidates, and for Curtman, that’s been a tactic he’s never considered.
While being interviewed on the Gary Nolan show in Columbia, one of the questions asked would have set the state representative up to attack his fellow candidates, but Curtman calmly responded that the GOP had a “great slate of candidates” before discussing his work, record and accomplishments, a nod to the 11th Commandment used by former President Ronald Reagan during his gubernatorial campaign in 1966.
“Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
For Curtman, that’s the kind of campaign he wants to run. He has not raised nearly as much money as fellow primary candidate David Wasinger, nor incumbent State Auditor Nicole Galloway. But instead of focusing on that, Curtman’s campaign has put a premium on the importance of voter outreach.
In the past few months, Curtman has logged tens of thousands of miles in his car while traveling across the state, and in the final week before the August primary, he launched a statewide tour, kicking off in Hannibal before ending in southeast Missouri.
In short, Curtman is banking on the fact that his hard work and ethics will resonate more at the polls than the lack of cash, though it’s worth noting that his campaign, while not bringing in massive donations, has remained solvent and out of debt. He says he simply wants to put more work and energy into the race.
Curtman says he wants to do more with the State Auditor’s office, saying that under Galloway, it has just become the “issuer of press releases.”
“If our state auditor would actually be part of the governing process instead of an issuer of press releases, that would go a long way toward accountability,” he said.
When asked why voters should believe him when he says he’ll do something about “waste, fraud, and abuse”, three words that seem to come out of most candidates’ mouths, Curtman responded that the reason they should believe him is that he is defining those terms.
“You always hear them say ‘I’m going to go after waste, fraud, and abuse,’ always in that order, but they never define their terms,” he said. “You have to let people know that you know what you’re talking about and that you have some direction and focus to get it done.
“For every dollar that the government wastes, that’s a dollar that the earner can’t spend in our economy,” he continued. “So we can continue to send money to Jefferson City and let that money get wasted by a bureaucrat, or let people take that money and feed our economy.”
He says that some of the ways to do that are by getting the Auditor’s Office into the budget meetings with the legislature, which he says would be one of his top priorities. He says that, if elected as the auditor, he would want to meet with the House Budget chairman on Day One and work to get the office more involved and to help supplement the information that the budget committees are working with.
“Having the Auditor actually work with individual state legislators on different committees that have jurisdiction over the issues and bureaucracies that the audits have covered is going to go a long way,” he said.
He also said that he wants to see more follow-ups on previous audits to make sure that the problems are fixed, and give people more confidence and restore trust in government at the local level.
His opponents have raised questions about the qualifications of a good auditor, with Wasinger noting that he is the only CPA in the race, and McDowell pointing to the fact that she is the only lawyer in the race. Missourians have elected a CPA or lawyer every time for the last few decades, but there have been no restrictions placed in the statute requiring it.
Curtman doesn’t believe that puts him at a disadvantage, though. He says that the position is to be elected by the people, who will put their faith in the person that they believe will be the best watchdog for the state.
He says that being an attorney or CPA doesn’t qualify anyone to lead the office any more than being a doctor or any other occupation that might come with titles or letters.
“I think that what is most important in this office is leadership,” he said. “Any Missourian should have the right to step up and say ‘I can be a better watchdog.’”
Curtman says that his experience in the military has given him a good comparison as to why being a CPA or lawyer isn’t necessarily what is need to lead the Auditor’s Office.
“A Marine Corps general has never been a scout sniper, or a mechanic in a tank platoon,” he said. “But a general, a good leader, knows how to economize his subordinates and put that together toward completing the mission. A good general knows how to economize all of the different aspects of the team and get them to work together, and we can find those people.”
He says, simply, that the auditor’s job is about finding the facts and holding people accountable, and that the people need to choose the person for their honesty, character, and willingness to work for them.
“People need to know. Informed voters are going to make better decisions at the polls,” he said. “The auditor’s office needs to make sure that they’re getting all of the information.
“The people to choose this office, because this is the people’s last bastion of honesty when everything else begins to crumble around them.”
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.