State State Auditor Candidate Pick’em – Open Item
Before we dive into today’s Open Item covering the candidates who have been mentioned for State Auditor, I want to commend you to Derek Trovilion’s piece yesterday on education reform ideas from South Korea. The Wall Street Journal looked at the South Korean education system and Trovilion asks what ideas that they are using might be good fits for Indiana and whether there are any ideas there that Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz might support since we’ve heard quite a bit about what she disagrees with when it comes to her predecessor’s policies.
As mentioned in yesterday’s Open Item, the chances are sooner rather than later we’re going to see Governor Mike Pence’s selection to replace current State Republican Chairman Tim Berry as our State Auditor. While there is nothing that would technically prevent Auditor Berry from serving in both roles, his chairmanship has been envisioned to be similar to that of past chairman Eric Holcomb – a full time role that would preclude him from serving his state responsibilities.
With our previous posts discussing who Gov. Pence might select for which position the first question has always been, what is he seeking to accomplish with this selection. The Indianapolis Star blog Behind Closed Doors suggested that Gov. Pence is looking for a candidate that will not just fill the position but go the distance and run for a full term in 2014. This is not a simple proposition – in the off year election there is normally a mix of experienced candidates along with new candidates for statewide office. Once this selection is complete, assuming they run in 2014 all of the candidates will be facing their first election, with Secretary of State Connie Lawson having been appointed to her position and incumbent State Treasurer Richard Mourdock unable to run for reelection due to term limits.
Outside of someone who can run for office successfully in four years, what else might Gov. Pence be looking for? If he is interested in looking at higher office down the road, he could use the opportunity to make a precedent-setting appointment by nominating a female or a member of a minority group (or both). Ultimately he’s going to want someone who is qualified to hold the position, can run the office effectively and not create any negative headlines. That doesn’t sound like a terribly high bar to overcome, but it is clear that not every candidate who does well serving in a local or representative office does well in prime time.
Here are the names of potential candidates we know:
State Representative Tom Sauders (R-Lewisville) opened an exploratory committee around the time it was announced Berry would be leaving office to take over as State Republican Party Chairman. He is the only candidate to have taken that step. He certainly has the experience running for office and has held the office representing the most people of all the candidates. That said, he was interviewed as part of the group that had expressed interest in the position, so he may not be one of Gov. Pence’s first choices for the position. Darrel Radford of the New Castle Courier Times reports that he is also the only candidate to have a former governor endorsing him for the position – Ed Whitcomb.
The early front runner from the media’s perspective seemed to be Celia Castro Coble, an attorney from Fishers who served as an alternative delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2012. You can view a brief video of her talking about why she’s a Republican captured by the Washington Post at the convention:
Coble is a Hispanic woman who would certainly be a groundbreaking selection in many respects. Her most significant liability (one shared by a number of these candidates) is a lack of electoral experience. It is clear that many inside the party believe she has strong potential and that this office might be a logical next step for her and the party.
Other names mentioned that were party of the interview process include City-County Council GOP minority leader Michael McQuillen and Brownsburg Town Council President Dwayne Sawyer. Both of these candidates were included because they had expressed interest in running for the position after Berry completed his term. Neither of these candidates have any obvious liabilities, but it’s not clear that either have been favored through this process either.
Other names to emerge since the original interviews include Fort Wayne attorney and insurance company executive Tim Smith and state employee Jillean Long Battle. Smith brings tremendous private sector experience and qualifications to the discussion. He has been involved behind the scenes with several conservative campaigns and even ran for office himself in the caucus to replace deceased State Senator Charles “Bud” Meeks. He has worked for some time as an executive at Fort Wayne-based The Medical Protective Company, a Berkshire Hathaway Company. He may have the resume with the most technical qualifications for the position.
Long Battle we mentioned in yesterday’s open item as being promoted in IndyPolitics.org has a likely choice for the open position. She has a broad range of experience with many different positions in state government that would seem to be an ideal training ground for a future State Auditor. An African-American woman, Long Battle would also fit the ground-breaking aspect of the selection if that is something under consideration. That said, she seems to have more qualification than Castro in this vein which may in fact give her an edge.
The bottom line is that names are often mentioned because people who are angling for the position are looking for outside help in getting selected. Yesterday’s Open Item mentioned that it’s highly likely none of the people on this list will be the person selected if Gov. Pence holds true to form. On the surface none of the candidates mentioned above seem to pose a problem and would probably be successful barring a highly-organized convention fight. That said, Gov. Pence has not made a single selection that was mentioned on these pages or anywhere else for that matter. You may well find that in the next day or so Gov. Pence announces someone like former Allen County Councilwoman and Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Paula Hughes for the position. One thing has been consistent – most people in the party have agreed that his selections for these positions make sense and given the time he has taken in making this decision, it’s one he is not taking lightly.