FRANKFORT — Though calls have been made to abolish the office of state treasurer, two Eastern Kentuckians are running hard this fall not only to win the $117,329-a-year job but add to its duties.
Republican Allison Ball, a bankruptcy attorney in Prestonsburg, and Democratic state Rep. Rick Nelson, a retired school teacher from Middlesboro, are in a tight race to become Kentucky's next chief financial officer.
State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, a Democrat from Louisville, could not seek re-election because of term limits. He's running for a district judgeship in Jefferson County.
The race was in a statistical dead heat late last month, according to the most recent Bluegrass Poll. In that poll, Ball grabbed 35 percent of the vote, Nelson 33 percent and 28 percent were undecided, suggesting that the public hadn't thought much about the Nov. 3 contest.
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Both Ball and Nelson defend the need for a state treasurer, while some recent candidates and legislators have called for abolishing it and transferring its duties to the state Finance and Administration Cabinet.
Ball, who focuses on consumer rights and commercial litigation in her law practice, said the job already has important duties, such as managing the state's depository and sitting on the governor boards of the Kentucky Lottery Corp. and Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System.
Ball said she will use the office "to do what the constitution intended it to do — to be a check and balance on spending in order to protect the state's financial stability."
"I will not be a rubber-stamp treasurer," she said.
Ball said she will work to increase transparency, promising to create a website that provides ready figures on state expenses. It would be similar to a website operated by the Ohio treasurer's office at www.ohiocheckbook.com.
"Kentucky could do a better job of informing its citizens about state money. I would do that," Ball said.
Nelson said he should be the next state treasurer because of his "life experiences" as a teacher and state legislator.
"Job No. 1 on that job is taking care of the state money," he said. "I could do that and much more."
For example, he said, "who better to have on the Teachers' Retirement System board than a retired teacher in the system?"
Nelson, a member of the state legislature since 2001, also said he would like to beef up financial literacy in the state.
"I would go to high schools across the state and inform students about the importance of avoiding financial problems," he said.
In their race for the state office, Ball has raised more campaign funds than Nelson.
The latest campaign financial reports on Oct. 7 showed Ball taking in $90,724, compared to $56,552 for Nelson.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Ball still had $67,968 on hand while Nelson showed only $9,505.
Nelson noted that he spent only about $7,000 in last spring's primary election and defeated four opponents.