Donahue wins Democratic nomination for state auditor. She’ll face Harmon in the fall.

Sheri Donahue, left, and Mike Harmon
Sheri Donahue, left, and Mike Harmon

A woman who once audited weapons projects for the U.S. Navy won the Democratic nomination to be Kentucky auditor of public accounts.

Sheri Donahue, 51, of Louisville, defeated Chris Tobe, a chartered financial analyst, and Kelsey Hayes Coots, a public school teacher in Jefferson County.

Donahue will face Republican incumbent Mike Harmon in the November general election. Harmon, who is in his first term, was unopposed in the primary.

Donahue, who has an industrial engineering degree, said her experience made her the most qualified for the office.

Donahue worked for 20 years auditing Navy projects and managing classified security contracts, and also worked on intelligence programs for other federal agencies before doing cybersecurity work for Humana.

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Donahue said during the campaign that people had lost faith in government, and that restoring trust would be a priority for her if elected.

“I know how to fix problems and believe, as auditor, I can expose and fix problems in government and restore faith in it,” she told the Herald-Leader.

Donahue said she felt voters identified with her message of pursuing audits based on facts rather than ideology.

Donahue listed other priorities as improving cybersecurity in state government and auditing electronic voting machines to guard against election tampering.

The Washington Post highlighted Donahue as one of several candidates this year promoting expertise in cybersecurity in the wake of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

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Donahue told the Herald-leader that if elected she would want to audit state contracts that have been awarded since lawmakers ended a requirement to pay contractors the prevailing wage. She questioned whether the change has saved the state as much money as supporters argued it would.

Donahue, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for a state Senate seat in Jefferson County, reported having far more money for the auditor’s race than her opponents.

In financial reports due 15 days before the primary, Donahue listed total receipts of $125,269 compared to $52,999 for Coots and $39,230 for Tobe. Donhaue said she loaned her campaign about $100,000.

Tobe had touted his career in finance and accounting in the race and Coots had pledged to bring more transparency to the auditor’s office, but Donahue won by a comfortable margin, according to unofficial vote totals.

The auditor’s office conducts annual financial reviews of several county offices and also audits state agencies and programs. The job of auditor pays $124,113 a year.

Auditor of Public Accounts


  • Sheri Donahue 134,952
  • Kelsey Hays Coots 95,685
  • Chris Tobe 58,548
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