Three candidates vying for the role of the state’s top fiscal watchdog have faced off in a debate in which independence and political ambitions were strong themes.
The major party candidates – Republican John Maher and Democrat Eugene DePasquale – are both running for re-election to their state House seats while each has a simultaneous bid for Auditor General.
Enter the Libertarian, self-appointed thorn-in-side to the two-party system.
“This is going to cost the taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars to hold special elections if each of these gentlemen, if either one of them gets elected,” said Libertarian candidate Betsy Summers, a Luzerne County resident. “I don’t want my money spent for that.”
In her opening remarks at Friday’s televised debate between the three Auditor General hopefuls, Summers asserted herself as the true independent in the race.
“I have no political ties to anyone in Harrisburg,” Summers told viewers watching from home and in the lecture room at Widener Law in Harrisburg. “I am one of you, a concerned taxpayer.”
Both Maher and DePasquale pledged not to follow in the footsteps of the state’s past three Auditors General, who ran for governor while still serving as AG.
Maher said it’s an easy promise to make, because if elected, he’ll audit agencies without considering what’s politically expedient.
“You won’t even need my pledge, because I am sure by the end of my term, there will be plenty of people in each party that will be very, very keen on me never being elected to anything again,” said Maher.
DePasquale’s own response to the question of using the AG job as a stepping stone was perhaps less full-throated. He said the “grunt job” of being AG, if done right, should make it tough to successfully run for another office afterwards.
“If the people of this state elect me Auditor General, I will serve as Auditor General as long as they want me to,” said DePasquale. “Now there [are] two four-year terms, so you can’t go beyond that, but you have my pledge that is what I will do.”
Summers made no similar pledge, but intimated that a gubernatorial bid isn’t in the cards. “It’s hard enough running for Auditor General,” she said.