Zack Space for Ohio auditor: endorsement editorial
Zack Space for Ohio auditor: endorsement editorial
The office of Ohio auditor carries a heavy load of responsibility. The auditor of state is official watchdog for Ohio’s citizens, authorized to conduct both fiscal and performance audits of more than 5,600 entities – cities, towns, schools, state agencies, etc. – to ensure that they are using resources efficiently, effectively and legally.
Candidates for auditor do run as members of a political party. But like our judges, once elected, the people who seek this office should strive to conduct themselves in a nonpartisan manner, and voters should give that expectation strong consideration.
So it is perhaps ironic that all three auditor candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot gave significant attention in their endorsement interviews to an aspect of the job that is only tangential to their overall responsibilities: the redistricting process in Ohio after the 2020 Census that will determine congressional and Statehouse boundaries for the next 10 years.
The auditor is one of seven people – along with the governor, secretary of state, and representatives selected by the majority and minority leaders of each legislative chamber – with a major role in deciding where the lines will be drawn.
The three candidates – Democrat Zack Space, Republican Keith Faber and Libertarian Robert C. Coogan – all said they consider who gets that seat on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to be a key factor in the election.
Space, 57, of Dover in Tuscarawas County, who served two terms in Congress before being defeated in 2010, said the next auditor will be in a position to do something about partisan gerrymandering that “disenfranchises millions of Ohioans, empowers extremism, [and renders legislators] unable to effect compromise negotiation or moderation, which are essential ingredients of a healthy democracy.” Space promised to work toward fixing that in a nonpartisan way.
Faber, 52, of Celina in Mercer County, doubts that and accuses Space of wanting to “weaponize” the auditor’s office, charging that Space has gotten heavy campaign contributions from “friends of Nancy Pelosi” who want a Democrat helping to control Ohio’s redistricting process.
But Faber himself can’t escape the partisan label. As president of the Ohio Senate, he marooned a charter-school-reform bill in an unfriendly committee (it passed anyway). He took more than $36,000 in campaign contributions from people connected with the now-closed ECOT charter school, subject of an ongoing Ohio effort to recoup $60 million in Ohio taxpayer dollars the state says ECOT improperly collected. And a 2011 email chain reported by the Dayton Daily News “shows Faber relayed to GOP officials that he wanted his Mercer County property drawn into a favorable congressional district,” the newspaper reported, adding that, “Faber said he merely wanted to avoid splitting his home county into multiple congressional districts.”
Coogan, 66, of Liberty Township in Butler County, reasonably argues that as a member of the small Libertarian party, he has the stronger argument for a nonpartisan approach to the redistricting process. His problem is that as a third-party candidate his chances of prevailing are slim.
All three appear to be well-qualified to run the large and complex auditor’s office. Space and Faber are both longtime attorneys and smart, effective legislators with a variety of experience with budgets and financial oversight. Coogan spent his career as a professional accountant and auditor and for a time was responsible for a staff of 184 as vice president of accounting for Cincinnati Bell.
But the choice realistically boils down to which of the two major-party candidates can offer assurance that he will approach the job of auditor in a nonpartisan way.
Space makes the better case. During his two terms in Congress, he represented many in Ohio’s Appalachia who in 2016 voted for Donald Trump, and he acknowledges that their loss of faith in politics still needs to be addressed via more responsive leadership, greater transparency and other good-government reforms. Faber, by contrast, has been in the legislature since 2001, including four years as Senate leader. It is hard to imagine how he would divorce his strong partisan background from the job of auditor.
Zack Space should be Ohioans’ choice for state auditor on the Nov. 6 ballot. Early voting has begun.
Early in-person and absentee voting for the Nov. 6 election has begun. For more resources, consult the League of Women Voters’ voters’ guide.
Seeking to become the next Ohio auditor are Republican Keith Faber, Democrat Zack Space and Libertarian Robert C. Coogan. Space and Faber were interviewed by the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on Sept. 24, 2018 as part of its endorsement process. Listen to audio of this interview below:
Coogan was interviewed separately by the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer on Sept. 17, 2018 as part of its endorsement process. Listen to audio of this interview below:
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