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Editorial: State auditor race offers intrigue

An election involving a state auditor typically doesn’t draw considerable attention, but this year’s a bit different.

That’s because Matt Entenza, who grew up in Worthington and later served in the Minnesota House as a representative and Minority Leader, is challenging two-term incumbent Rebecca Otto in the DFL primary. Entenza, who previously failed in a 2010 run for governor and dropped out of a 2006 race for state attorney general, has announced that he will not be constrained by spending limits in the primary, which allows him to exceed the election cycle expenditure limit (The Associated Press reported that figure last week as $417,300.)

Otto’s response to Entenza’s decision encapsulates her frustration with Entenza’s challenge, as well as how her view of the auditor post differs from that of her DFL opponent. “Why would a state auditor campaign need to spend more than $400,000 to communicate their message?” Otto wrote in an email. “This is an oversight position, not a policy position.”

Entenza doesn’t see things that way. During a visit to the Daily Globe last month, he stressed his belief that Otto and the auditor’s office has been too quiet over the past eight years and needs to do more than simply “balance the books.” Otto, for her part, noted in an interview with this newspaper days later that Entenza — in essence — doesn’t understand what being auditor entails. She also touted her previous recognition as a winner of the National Award for Excellence in Accountability, her service as president of the National State Auditors Association, and her being named one of the most 15 Most Influential Government Auditors in America.

While Otto has the state DFL’s endorsement, Entenza could have an advantage thanks to his spending decision. It will be an intriguing primary, to be sure, with the winner to face Republican Randy Gilbert in November. Gilbert told the Daily Globe last week that he’s the best auditor candidate because neither Entenza nor Otto have professional auditing experience, while he has worked many years in accounting.

It’s an atypical auditor contest, indeed, and one worthy of the public’s attention.