Three Term State Auditor Set to Jump into 2018 Race for Governor
St. Paul, MN – Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto has announced her candidacy for governor. The three term auditor is launching her campaign with a statewide “Listening Tour” that begins in Stillwater, Minnesota today.
According to her campaign Press Release, the goal of the listening tour is “to engage with as many Minnesotans in the early stage of her campaign for Governor so that the policies that she puts forth are reflective of and give voice to the issues and challenges people around the state face every day.”
Otto’s three terms as Auditor have not been void of controversy.
In 2013, Otto angered Iron Rangers when she cast the only “no” vote on the Executive Council against non-ferrous mining in Minnesota’s Northland. Even with her vote against the planned 31 leases the measure passed, but that wasn’t enough to make some in the Iron Range forgive Otto for what they saw as a potentially job-killing vote. Otto said at the time that her vote was to protect taxpayers, not to take jobs away from Minnesotans: “We’ve done mining for a century but we’ve never done nonferrous mining. What I don’t want to see happen is us engage in this type of mining as a state and hope that the mining companies will pick up the tab if something goes wrong. The taxpayers deserve some answers.” (Finance-Commerce.com)
More recently, Otto has been criticized for fighting a law passed in 2015 allowing Minnesota counties to use private auditors rather than the state auditors for their mandatory annual financial audits. Claiming the law “unconstitutional,” Otto filed a lawsuit with Ramsey County Court in February 2016. The lawsuit is now on appeal and has cost the auditor’s office (Minnesota taxpayers) $250,000 in legal bills. The Pioneer Press reported:
“What people keep saying to me is ‘Fight it, please fight it, and let us know how we can help.’ They know the importance of this office and they know they don’t want ‘the fox guarding the hen house,’ ” Otto said.
Critics say her legal battle is a waste of taxpayers’ money over a provision that allows counties to manage their books efficiently. Since the new law has been in place, many counties have said they will hire private firms to do the auditing work the state office had done in the past.
Otto joins democrats St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and State Representative Erin Murphy (St. Paul) in announcing their candidacy for governor. Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) has said he will not seek a third term in 2018. Other democrats who may jump into the race include Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Attorney General Lori Swanson and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. One Republican, political newcomer activist Christopher William Chamberlin, has announced. However, there are many other Republicans who potentially could announce, including outgoing Republican Party Chair Keith Downey, Speaker Kurt Daudt; U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen; and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (a 2014 gubernatorial candidate).