State auditor race calls attention to candidates' credentials

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COLUMBIA - Missourians will choose a state auditor in the Nov. 6 elections. The five candidates include incumbent Democrat Nicole Galloway and Republican Saundra McDowell.

Galloway and McDowell have disputed each other’s credentials and abilities throughout the race, such as during a Missouri Press Association forum.

A common topic in the race has been McDowell’s residency in Missouri. On election day, McDowell will have lived in Missouri for fewer than 10 years. However, the Missouri Constitution says an auditor must be a resident of the state for at least 10 years at the time of the election. Law experts have disagreed on whether McDowell could still qualify. McDowell touched on her residency in a statement on social media.

“My husband and I established intent for residency more than ten years ago, and any attempts to mischaracterize that as inadequate are ridiculous,” McDowell said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch accessed lawsuit records from 2013 that showed McDowell as having a Kansas address. The newspaper also found that McDowell's husband, Jonathan, owed $1,484 in taxes on personal property.

In the statement, McDowell also talked about her past financial debts. Court records show McDowell and her husband Jonathan owed a landlord $32,658.50 in 2015, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“We have made every effort possible to pay off the debts that we owe, and we will continue to do so.”

Galloway was the defendant in a trial in August against Missouri Alliance for Freedom. The nonprofit said Galloway violated the Sunshine Law by failing to preserve text messages. There is currently no ruling. In a February report, the Attorney General’s Office said the State Auditor’s Office did not violate the Sunshine Law.

Galloway faced a lawsuit from Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott in January. Arnott maintained that Galloway needed to release complaint records from whistleblowers in Greene County under open records laws. However, Galloway said doing so would risk the whistleblowers' identities.

The next state auditor could have a new responsibility if Amendment 1 passes. Amendment 1, the Clean Missouri Initiative, includes several legislative goals. Clean Missouri said one goal is to “ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census.” The auditor would help choose a demographer to make the maps.

Galloway has repeatedly discussed dark money during the campaign.

“I think that the office of state auditor is the most important platform to call out public corruption, and as dark money has gotten worse in Jefferson City and in our politics, I have been taking a stand for that over and over again,” Galloway said. “I think we absolutely need to get the dark money out of our decision making in Jefferson City.”

Galloway said she believes dark money is a critical issue in the government. At one event, she talked about calling out dark money in relation to former governor Eric Greitens.

“While I called it out, my opponent was silent,” Galloway said. “If you are not willing to take a stand against corruption and against secrecy, even when it means criticizing members of your own party, then you should not be seeking the job of state auditor.”

McDowell has said she believes Galloway lacks transparency.

“Transparency to me is really the essence of the office,” McDowell said. “And currently we can see that our current auditor has been dragged into court twice because of transparency issues.” 

If elected, McDowell said she will implement a five-part plan called Every Dollar Works. The plan includes auditing the auditor’s office and training the office for “an eye towards litigation,” McDowell said. It would also involve auditing certain funds, McDowell said.

“There are a lot of funds sets up across the state that are under elected officials, they’re under state agencies, and to my knowledge those funds have never been audited by the state auditor or anyone else,” McDowell said.

Galloway took office as state auditor in April 2015. She was also the Boone County Treasurer. She is a certified fraud examiner and certified public accountant.

McDowell worked in the Secretary of State’s office as Director of Enforcement for the Securities Division. McDowell was also an Assistant Attorney General. McDowell is a U.S. Air Force veteran and worked as an attorney.

The other three candidates are Don Fitz for the Green Party, Jacob Luetkemeyer for the Constitution Party and Sean O’Toole for the Libertarian Party.