If there's a compelling case for unseating Adam Edelen as Kentucky's auditor of public accounts, his opponent Rep. Mike Harmon is not making it.
Edelen has achieved an impressive record by taking on complicated issues and untangling sticky government messes, even at political risk to himself.
Early on, Edelen, a Democrat, tackled the $2.7 billion "shadow" government represented by special taxing districts. He worked across party lines with lawmakers to require more transparency and accountability from bureaucracies that daily impact millions of Kentuckians' lives.
Edelen's reports on the problems with managed care Medicaid shone needed light on insurance industry practices that were threatening the financial viability of Kentucky's health care provider network. Doing this required Edelen to criticize the way a key element of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's cost-cutting plan was being carried out, which Edelen did even though he had served as Beshear's chief of staff.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Superintendents and other local school officials will think twice before getting sticky fingers with public funds as a result of Edelen's audits of school districts, including one that sent a Northern Kentucky superintendent to federal prison.
Under Edelen, the auditor's office has helped recover public assets belonging to the Blue Grass Area Development District in Lexington and exposed grave oversight problems at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Both institutions, we should say, are critical to their regions' economies and tied closely to local elected officials.
Edelen responded to the legislature's concerns about Kentucky's excessive backlog of rape investigation kits with an unblinking examination and smart recommendations. Voters who think rape should be investigated as a serious crime should keep Edelen in office so he can help push the recommendations into reality.
Harmon, R-Danville, a state legislator since 2003, wants a performance audit of Kentucky's perilously underfunded public pension systems.
In a meeting with the editorial board, Harmon also expressed concerns that the auditor's office is overcharging local governments for services that are sometimes inconsistent, though he offered no specific complaints or details.
Edelen also wants to undertake a performance audit of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, though he says such an examination of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System is unnecessary because the teachers' fund is well managed and performs competitively but has just been underfunded by lawmakers.
Both candidates say an examination of public pension management will require an appropriation from the legislature to hire the necessary experts.
Cuts in state funding have forced the auditor's office to rely more heavily on fees than in the past. Also, state audits drill deeper into inefficiencies and corruption than the routine financial audits performed for local governments and school districts by private firms.
Some local officials have always groused about state audits. But voters should recognize that watchdog audits are one of the best deals taxpayers get for their money.
With that in mind, voters also should re-elect Edelen.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.