Janssen, McGill compete in ‘quiet’ State Auditor race
October 9th, 2014
Lincoln, NE – Over the past four years, the office of Nebraska state auditor has made headlines for tackling financial fraud and wasteful spending in several Nebraska public institutions.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/bohall-state-auditor.mp3]
Current auditor Mike Foley will soon end his tenure in office, and that’s left two candidates vying to be his successor.
Although the office of state auditor may not be the highest-profile race in the upcoming election, the argument could be made it is an important one.
According to University of Nebraska at Omaha political science professor Paul Landow, itâ€™s the position in state government one might think of as the inspector general
â€œThe state auditor has the ability to audit any and all state departments and programs, and as such has the ability to uncover waste, abuse, or make suggestions that might be valuable in terms of saving money in the future.â€ Landow explained.
Charlie Janssen, a businessman, has served as the state senator for District 15, encompassing Fremont, since 2008. After dropping out of the governorâ€™s race earlier this year, Janssen set his sights on the auditorâ€™s office. (Photo courtesy of Nebraska Legislature)
Since 2007, current state auditor Mike Foley has taken an aggressive approach, most notably targeting ongoing problems with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Itâ€™s now become the task of the auditor candidates, Republican Charlie Janssen and Democrat Amanda McGill, to not only remind voters of the importance of the auditor position, but also raise awareness of their own campaigns.
McGill has been quick to point to her tenure since 2006 as a state senator for District 26, encompassing northeast Lincoln. Sheâ€™s said the bulk of her time in the Legislature has involved tackling government inefficiencies and waste. Because of term limits, McGill will soon conclude her term in the Legislature and believes the auditorâ€™s office would be the next logical step.
Amanda McGill has served as state senator for District 26, encompassing northeast Lincoln, since 2006. Due to term limits, she will soon conclude her term in the Legislature and believes the auditorâ€™s office would be the next logical step. (Photo courtesy of Nebraska Legislature)
â€œThis experience has really prepared me for being in the auditorâ€™s office which is doing even more thorough investigations and working with law enforcement in the auditorâ€™s office to determine what is breaking the law, what is just a mismanagement or management error that can be just corrected moving forward,â€ McGill said. â€œI am certainly very prepared to take on those duties thanks to my experience in the Legislature.â€
The argument has been much the same for Republican candidate Charlie Janssen. Janssen, a businessman, has served as the state senator for District 15, encompassing Fremont, since 2008. After dropping out of the governorâ€™s race earlier this year, Janssen set his sights on the auditorâ€™s office. As CEO of the multi-million dollar medical company RTG Medical, Janssen has pointed to his business background as strong experience in approaching the auditorâ€™s office.
â€œCertainly you understand what itâ€™s like to manage your own books and then also have employees working underneath you and managing them as well. Itâ€™s a managerial position, and I think Iâ€™d bring a very conservative approach to government, having been in government,â€ Janssen said. â€œI was a city a councilman in Fremont and Iâ€™ve obviously been the state senator for the past six years. So, my eight years in service to our community and our state also uniquely qualifies me, with the business and public service.â€
Both candidates have been campaigning on the importance of a stronger collaboration between the auditorâ€™s office and the Nebraska Legislature. In particular, theyâ€™ve wanted to blur the line between the auditorâ€™s office role of financial audits, and the Legislatureâ€™s role of performance audits.
â€œI would want to work with the agencies, governor, Legislature, to bring lasting change to the problems,â€ McGill said. â€œThereâ€™s this wealth of information about whatâ€™s happening day-to-day in these offices that could be shared with these lawmakers, so weâ€™re not only finding the problems in the here and now but making lasting change moving forward.â€
And as for Janssen:
â€œBuilding a relationship with the Legislature is very important. Thatâ€™s something I want to do. I want to actually ask for a legislative liason as part of my platform and have somebody working there daily with the Legislature,â€ Janssen explained. â€œThe Legislature appropriates the money, and even though itâ€™s a partisan office, itâ€™s non-partisan in that once the money is appropriated, weâ€™ve got to make sure itâ€™s spent in the manner the Legislature intended.”
With such similar goals in mind, however, the race could strictly come down to voting party lines. With more registered Republicans in the state, the odds seem to be in Janssenâ€™s favor. According to Landow, however, there could be an x factor.
â€œThe number of independents or nonpartisans that are registered is growing, which tells you people are becoming less enamored with the political parties and prefer to be called something more independent,â€ Landow said.
And heading into this yearâ€™s primaries, the number of registered Democrat and Republican voters dropped from the 2012 election cycle. Independents, officially registered as nonpartisan, however, did grow. Last year, Independents constituted 19 percent of registered voters, 48 percent of voters registered as Republicans, and 33 percent registered as Democrats.
â€œWhether theyâ€™re actually more independent or not, of course, remains to be seen,â€ Landow said. â€œBut the fact that there are so many Independent voters in Nebraska means that it is possible for Democrats to win statewide, but itâ€™s not easy.â€
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