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State Auditor Race Gets Competitive, Combative

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNAEPOLIS (WCCO) — The normally quiet Minnesota state auditor’s race is suddenly heating up.

Former Minnesota House leader Matt Entenza filed last-minute papers to run against fellow Democrat Rebecca Otto, who has been state auditor for the last eight years.

And Otto says she’s done a good job of watch-dogging the billions of state dollars that go to local governments.

“My approach has been to help local officials be successful in being good stewards of public funds, meaning that we don’t want things to go wrong in local government,” Otto said. “We want things to go very well, to keep them out of the headlines.”

But Entenza is running against Otto because he says she’s not an “activist.”

“If the standard for re-election is just that things are quiet, then that’s fine,” Entenza said. “But I think you want an auditor who’s a leader and who’s going to stand up and be very active.”

Entenza says Otto should be more active on pensions and going after what he calls “corporate welfare” by local governments competing to lure business.

But he’s also hitting her on a vote she took against gay marriage some 11 years ago.

“When you’re tested in a time when it’s difficult, and you stand up, that’s a measure of who you are as a leader,” he said.

Entenza says he was the first legislator to introduce a bill legalizing gay marriage in 1995. Otto says she now supports gay marriage, and worked with the statewide campaign to pass it.

“The issue has evolved over time. It was the biggest mistake of my public service career. And I said that over and over and over in public. And I’ve worked hard to make sure we have marriage equality in this state,” she said.

Otto isn’t afraid to throw her own punches, questioning Entenza’s motive for entering the race.

Noting that two of the last four Minnesota governors – Mark Dayton and Arne Carlson – first served as state auditor, Otto says that may be Entenza’s real ambition.

“Sometimes people mistake this race, or use this office, to run for higher office,” Otto said. “And then it’s more about ‘gotcha’ politics and getting headlines for yourself as an elected official rather than digging in and doing the people’s business.”

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