Accusations of partisanship

The two candidates for state auditor each say the other will bring partisanship to a job that is supposed to be above politics.

Voters will have to decide who deserves four years as the state's lead watchdog on waste and abuse of taxpayer money.

Incumbent Republican Les Merritt says he has been aggressive about watching the public's money. That, he adds, has led critics in state government, largely controlled by Democrats, to accuse him of pushing a political agenda.

“If you really do your job, occasionally you're going to be in certain areas where you're going to have people really push back at you,” he said. “I've got some scars to really show that.”

His opponent, Democrat Beth Wood, a former training director in the state auditor's office, said Merritt has opened himself up to the criticism.

“Not until Les Merritt came to work there did we start to hear ‘Republican versus Democrat,'” Wood said.

“If people believe that the audits are done in a partisan way – they're not objective, they're not independent, somebody's got some foregone conclusion – there's no credibility to the audit.”

Merritt counts among his accomplishments streamlining the way the office operates, reducing a backlog of investigative audits and implementing a training program to help nonprofit agencies comply with accounting rules.

Wood says she wants to make audits easier for the legislature and the public to understand, implement an improved training program for auditors in the office and restore public trust in the office.