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The Public Auditor Race

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by Ron McNinch, for KUAM News

The public auditor race heated up this past week with former Governor Carl Gutierrez expressing interest in running for public auditor. All else equal, he should be able to proceed to the general election. For the last twelve years, this position has been held by Doris Brooks and she ran unopposed in the 2004 and 2008 elections. Her last real competition for this post happened in 2000 when several candidates were fielded at the general election.

When the idea of an elected public auditor was first raised, the idea was to limit the public auditor to single four years terms. This would allow the position to rotate and provide new views of the audit and review process. This practice of position rotation is a fairly common practice in accounting. Later, the rotating term concept was dropped and this allowed for successive terms. Also, a "winnowing" or narrowing primary election round was added to allow for the field of candidates to be narrowed for the general election. In general, this has not worked out well because it places a non-partisan race squarely in the middle of the partisan primary elections.

The interesting thing about the Gutierrez factor is that it energizes an otherwise bland primary election cycle. To be frank, the entire month of July was spent on silly nonsense. With Gutierrez entering the scene, a likely alignment will occur in both the democrat and republican senatorial camps. This will have ultimately very positive effects in energizing both camps.

Regarding skills for public auditors and who is best suited for the position, Brooks has a strong financial background and the main function of the office has been to describe what is wrong with government. Gutierrez' strength is actually more toward public management solutions and feedback. What this suggests is that there may be a strong contrast of approaches and styles. Regardless, it will be an exciting race.

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