Four Republicans are set to face off in the Aug. 7 primary for Missouri auditor, hoping to unseat Democrat Nicole Galloway in November.
The four contenders are Paul Curtman of Pacific, Saundra McDowell of Jefferson City, Kevin Roach of Ballwin, and David Wasinger of St. Louis County.
Curtman works as a financial advisor, and he’s in his final term-limited year in the Missouri House, representing portions of Franklin County. At a recent forum attended by all four GOP candidates, Curtman said his legislative experience has prepared him to be state auditor.
“As the chairman of the committee on downsizing state government and the committee on government efficiency, I’ve had an opportunity to really put the screws to some of these bureaucrats,” he said, “and use that time and that opportunity to put together solutions so we can get out ahead of the problems that we’re discovering in the audits.”
Curtman also wants the auditor’s office to have input into Missouri’s annual state budget, whenever a state agency that’s been audited asks for a budget increase.
“When a bureaucrat comes and asks for more money, I would really like for the state auditor’s office to be there to speak up on behalf of the audit and say, ‘they might not need as much money as they’re asking for – here’s what our audit looked like.’”
McDowell is a lawyer who’s worked as an assistant attorney general under Democrat Chris Koster, and until February of this year was enforcement director of the securities division for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican.
“With my investigations I have literally put people in jail for the fraudulent acts that they have committed,” she said. “I’ve also brought back over $10 million of taxpayer funds and individual investment funds to Missouri and to Missourians.”
McDowell adds that the state auditor’s office needs more “bite.”
“What I plan to have my auditors and investigators do is take these audits as if we were going to litigation,” she said. “We’re going to make sure that everything that we bring in during an auditor investigation is ironclad, that it’s going to get passed any kind of hearsay objections, any kind of relevance objections, any foundation issues.”
Roach is in his third year as an alderman in Ballwin and works as an independent consultant for both for-profit and nonprofit groups. He holds an MBA from Webster University, where he studied forensic accounting and financial fraud. Roach said if elected, he’ll have the auditor’s office audited.
“You can’t ask anybody to do anything that you’re not willing to do yourself, so with the results of that audit, that will tell us exactly the things that we need to change,” Roach said.
Roach’s main goal, though, is to “modernize” the state auditor’s office.
“We have over 3,700 separate government entities in Missouri, and they’re living off your paycheck,” he said. “We need to modernize the office, because 97 percent of government entities are not being audited – some have never been audited, and they’re playing the odds that they never will be audited … and this is all contributing to the illusion of accountability.”
Wasinger practices business law, and is a former member of Board of Curators for the University of Missouri System.
“I have two young sons,” he said. “I think if the culture of cronyism and corruption is not changed in Jefferson City, those two young boys are not going to have the same opportunities that I had growing up, that others had growing up.”
Wasinger said he’ll focus on finding and uprooting waste and fraud if elected.
“Once you have government in play, involved in anything, you have a lot of fraud, waste, and corruption,” he said.
Wasinger is also a certified public accountant, in addition to being an attorney: “I check both boxes that voters look for in terms of qualifications.”
But the other three contenders say being a CPA is not necessary for running the state auditor’s office. McDowell said that attorneys have a better sense of the big picture.
“Being a CPA, I think, bogs you down,” she said. “You get caught up in the minute details of these audits – or the spreadsheets and things that you’re looking at – and you don’t need to do that, you have people that do that for you.”
Curtman said it’s more important that the state auditor be a good leader than a CPA.
“If they’re not a leader, then that office is immediately just as wasteful as any bureaucracy that they’re trying to watchdog over,” he said.
Roach said one of Missouri’s best auditors, Kit Bond, was not a CPA.
“He was an adept business leader who knew what we needed in 1971,” he said. “The biggest qualification, the most important qualification, is not being blind to the problems we have in Missouri.”
But Wasinger maintained that his experience as a CPA is key to ousting Galloway.
“The electorate wants someone qualified for this position,” he said. “Nicole Galloway is a CPA, Susan Montee was a CPA and an attorney – it will be a huge campaign issue if you do not nominate a CPA as your nominee.”
Wasinger has an overwhelming financial advantage. As of this month, he has about $760,000 on hand, though $500,000 of that came from money he loaned himself.
Curtman is a very distant second with about $20,000, Roach has just under $3,000 and McDowell has about $1,500. But they all sounded confident of their chances despite not having anywhere near the amount of money as Wasinger has to campaign.
“I have everything I need – I have signs that were graciously donated to me, I have T-shirts, I have push pieces, [and] I have my work ethic,” McDowell said. “I don’t need TV ads – I’ve met these people, they know me.”
“If money could win elections, wouldn’t Hillary Clinton be president right now?” Roach said.
And Curtman said if it were true that whoever has the most money wins he wouldn’t be in the Missouri House.
“In my very first campaign I was outspent 3-1 – but what I had was a lot of people who showed up in the rain, in the snow, and in the hot days when it was 105 degrees, to go out and knock doors.”
Incumbent Galloway, who’s running unopposed in the Democratic primary, has so far raised nearly $1.1 million.
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