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BOSTON — At a small gathering over lunch, the two major party candidates for state auditor made their pitch for support with personal stories that show their integrity. Republican Mary Z. Connaughton remembered when she was appointed to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board and was told she would be given a non-revenue transponder as a perk. She asked why.
“And they said, ‘Mary you are a board member now, you get to ride the Pike for free!’ ”
Connaughton asked, “You mean for board meetings right? ‘No, you get to ride the Pike for free!’ I said keep your non-revenue transponder. There shouldn’t be separate deals — one for those who are in government and one for those who are not.”
Connaughton, a certified public accountant, became known as a fiscal watchdog on the turnpike board.
Democrat Suzanne Bump told the lunch crowd that she’s been a lawyer, lobbyist and lawmaker. When she took over as secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, she recalls seeking advice from the outgoing secretary.
“His advice was: ‘Suzanne, it’s a complicated morass, do a few things around the edges and declare victory.’ That was his management philosophy. So you can appreciate the mess that I encountered when I took over as secretary of Labor,” Bump said.
Bump said she sped up dispute resolution for unemployment claims and put in performance standards for workforce training grants.
No matter who wins, you can expect to see some major changes at the auditor’s office, which has had the same leader for 24 years.
The two women present two different views on what qualifications are necessary to be the state’s auditor. Connaughton says it’s about having experience balancing the books; Bump says it’s about managing state government. They stated their cases in a recent debate on New England Cable News with Jim Braude.
“You need to be an attorney to be the attorney general, shouldn’t you be an auditor to be the state auditor? And I’m the only auditor in the race,” Connaughton said.
“The answer is no. You need someone who has provided leadership in state government, who can work with a multi-disciplinary team,” Bump responded.
However the candidates define the qualifications, the auditor has enormous power as the watchdog of government spending. The office looks at programs including Medicaid and housing to make sure there isn’t fraud. Connaughton calls it the second most important job in state government.
“The auditor doesn’t report to the governor, doesn’t report to the legislature, but only to the people,” Connaughton said. “They should have no interest other than the public’s interest.”
Bump criticizes Connaughton for not having broad political skills to make the office more effective.
“We aren’t electing the chief accountant for the commonwealth,” Bump said. “We are electing a leader who needs to have vision, who needs to have political skill.”
There have been a few revelations in this race. Bump was claiming two property tax exemptions, saying her two homes were both primary residences. She says it was an honest misunderstanding and has paid almost $6,000 in back taxes.
Connaughton has been criticized by Bump for doing consulting work for former Gov. Mitt Romney’s political action committee while claiming not to be beholden to special interests.
No matter who wins, you can expect to see some major changes at the auditor’s office, which has had the same leader for 24 years. Republican Connaughton says she will ask every employee to reapply for their jobs. Democrat Bump says she’ll do a peer review to see how well the agency functions.