Minnesotans considering their choice for state auditor may wonder why they’re voting on what should be a nonpartisan, professional position.
But the office has come to be seen as a political springboard in recent decades — for Arne Carlson, Mark Dayton and others. And a divisive political schism about the office’s role developed in 2015, when the Legislature passed a law that allowed counties to hire accountants outside of the state office.
Outgoing DFL incumbent Rebecca Otto objected to the change, and there’s merit in the argument that there are potential conflicts of interest in allowing government entities to choose their own auditors. Otto’s successor would best serve the state by ensuring proper oversight of privately performed audits. That mission would be best accomplished by electing a candidate with deep auditing experience.
Republican Pam Myhra is a certified public accountant who has worked at the multinational auditing giant KPMG and served as a state representative. She wins the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsement on the strength of those qualifications.
Myhra, 61, also sought office in 2014 as a candidate for lieutenant governor and in 2016 as a congressional candidate in the Second District. But it’s her professional accounting credentials that set her apart from her opponent, DFLer Julie Blaha, who has been secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO and president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, as well as a former middle-school math teacher.
Blaha, 48, brings enthusiasm and a collaborative approach that she said she would take to counties working with the auditor’s office, which she says can bring statewide power to the local level.
Statewide power is in play in another aspect of the state auditor’s role: Either Myhra or Blaha will sit on six state boards or councils that have significant impact on public land, pensions and mining projects, among other issues that are important and often quite controversial in this state.
While both candidates show the requisite judgment to fulfill this job duty, as well as the auditing function itself, Myhra brings unique expertise.