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Four Candidates in MO Auditor Race

The front-runners: Democrat Susan Montee and Republican Sandra Thomas.
Campaign photos
The front-runners: Democrat Susan Montee and Republican Sandra Thomas.

By Steve Bell

Kansas City, MO – With current auditor Claire McCaskill bowing out to run for the Senate, the race features a Republican and a Democrat who say they can conduct the office in a nonpartisan manner and a Libertarian and a Progressive who say only someone from a third party can do that.

Both major party candidates are currently county auditors in their home counties. Both favor a balance of financial and performance audits, and both would audit the Missouri Workers' Comp fund, which had never been audited before.
Republican Sandra Thomas, from Smithville would amend the state constitution to so only a CPA could hold the Auditor's office.

"There have been a lot of changes in governmental accounting as well as in individual accounting and private accounting. And in the last few years after Enron and WorldCom and those things it's very important that we have someone who really understands how to audit to manage the people in the auditor's office."

Thomas says a state auditor should be proactive.

"Audits are great, but the're after the fact. And so the things that you're looking for are things that can help you be proactive to prevent things in the future."

The Republican candidate says beyond proactivity, there has to be a dollars-spent focus.

"We're going to look at the areas of state government where most of the money is spent - areas like MoDOT, Medicaid, conservation and education. We're also going to be looking at areas where there is a lot of cash like the court systems."

Thomas says she is best qualified to be auditor because she is a CPA, and has won national awards in her job as Platte County auditor. Her Democratic opponent, Susan Montee, who is also a CPA, does not agree that the qualifications for state auditor need to be changed.

"I don't think that we should be changing the law to require that. I think that being a CPA indicates that you have the right training for the office, but I know some really fine accountants that never worked in public accounting that would be well-suited to the office as well, and so I don't favor restricting the pool of people who could do this job well."

Democrat Montee, who is from St. Joseph, says she is the best for the job because she has a qualification in addition to being a CPA.

"On top of being an accounting, I'm also an attorney, and there are so many legal issues that hit the auditor's office. So, when I'm elected I'll be the first person to hold both a law degree and a CPA."

Montee says the amount of money spent by a department or agency is not the only important criterion for doing an audit. She says MOHELA, the state student loan agency should be audited, as should the safety of schools from "Columbine" type incidents... and those are examples of why a comprehensive list of audits can't be made in advance.

"When the incident came up in Joplin, then it's something we just started talking about. We've actually got a plan to audit not just our laws on that, but also the grant programs and other security programs that we have in place. We're calling it the Safe Schoolyards Initiative. And many of the audits that come up and should be looked at immediately are triggered by things that have happened in the state, so we're going to try to be flexible and try to look for the right things at the right time."

Democrat Montee and Republican opponent Thomas agree that audits should be chosen on a non-partisan basis something Progressive Terry Bunker thinks is unlikely if a major-party candidate is elected.

Progressive Party Candidate Terry Bunker and Libertarian Charles Baum.

"I would want to conduct performance audits of state agencies to see if these agencies are responsive to the needs of the average taxpayer in Missouri, or if they are more responsive to the needs of the corporations who all to often fund the two major political parties."

Progressive Party candidate Bunker would also investigate whether last year's Medicaid cuts saved taxpayers any money considering reduced federal funds and absorbing the cost of the uninsured and whether reliance on ethanol in state vehicles is actually more energy efficient than using gasoline, once energy expended to make the ethanol is factored in.

Libertarian candidate Charles Baum was not available for an interview. His web site lists areas of concern as waiting times for Missouri adoptions, accountability for tobacco settlement money, a high uncollected rate for child support and weak state efforts to curb domestic violence.

Susan Montee, Sandra Thomas, Charles Baum and Terry Bunker are on next week's ballot for Missouri State Auditor. Neither third party candidate spent even $1,000 campaigning. As of about two weeks ago, Montee's campaign had about $900,000 including a $500,000 she lent herself. Thomas had about $300,000 including a $150,000 loan from herself.

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