Both Republican candidates for state auditor think the office can serve as a catalyst for change in state government.
John T. Kemper III, a Lexington real estate developer, talks of using the office to shine a floodlight on state operations that can lead to reducing the size of government without cutting services.
State Rep. Addia Wuchner, of Burlington, approaches the same goal with a different explanation. As an advocate for the use of best practices in state government, Wuchner says, the auditor can help lawmakers make wiser spending decisions.
On issues important in an auditor's race, such as transparency and accountability, the differences between Kemper and Wuchner are minimal at best. Thus, Republican voters must look to the backgrounds of the two candidates for guidance in choosing the best one to represent the party in the fall.
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And there, Wuchner is a clear winner. Her experience as a hospital administrator and the knowledge of state government she has gained during four terms in the House make her the better-qualified candidate.
No doubt this knowledge and experience help explain why, during separate candidate interviews with the Herald-Leader editorial board, Wuchner displayed an understanding of the full range of responsibilities and duties entrusted to the auditor's office. Likewise, she had a better grasp of the possibilities available to the auditor for making state government more efficient and effective.
Both candidates bring baggage that could hurt them in the General Election.
Kemper, a home builder, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and used campaign contributions to pay his 2011 vehicle tax. This might lead some voters to question whether he has the judgment to manage an important state agency — or the personal standing to crusade against a state government that he says has borrowed more than it can afford.
Wuchner sued an insurance company in 2009, claiming she was medically unfit to work a full-time job because of injuries from a 1996 car crash. The insurer had ended her disability payments after assigning a private investigator to follow her during her 2004 legislative campaign. She reached a private settlement last year and received a payment from the insurer. She has said she no longer receives disability payments.
Wuchner, who is also a cancer survivor, says she has learned to manage her pain; from all indications, she's energetic and conscientious as a legislator. What's troubling is the possibility that she was trying to game the insurance system, a practice that would be at odds with the ethical standards desired in a state auditor. It's hard to know what to think, given the limited amount of information that's publicly available.
Despite that concern, Wuchner's superior knowledge and experience make her the Republicans' best chance to succeed in November against Adam Edelen, Gov. Steve Beshear's former chief of staff, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Thursday.