The filing deadline is still a couple of weeks away, but candidates barked at each other Thursday night in their bid to become the state’s top watchdog.
State Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, and Republican candidate James Watkins of Redmond did their best to show Spokane voters why they should replace the retiring Brian Sonntag as state auditor. Also in the race, but not attending the event, are State Rep. Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, and State Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver.
About 30 people attended the campaign event hosted by the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation at the Lincoln Center.
Miloscia told the sparse crowd that if the state were a private business, “we’d be out of business.” “Government can be better. We can restore trust in government, and the state auditor can help do that.”
Watkins, who holds a master’s degree in business administration, pointed out that all three of his Democratic opponents voted to cut funding to the Auditor’s Office.
“It seems to me to vote in a legislator who has already voted to limit the office is like having a fox watch the hen house. I’m not aware in the history of the world where that has ever worked,” Watkins said.
The state auditor has a staff of about 350 employees and a budget of about $80 million. He or she has the authority to perform financial and performance audits on state agencies.
“We are very fortunate in Washington state that we have a very good state auditor’s office,” Watkins said. “I want to make sure that taxpayers get the most efficient service for every dollar spent.”
Miloscia, who also has a master’s degree in business administration, said he’s performed audits on hospitals and Fortune 500 companies.
Watkins, who ran for Congress in 2010, said he has performed more than 150 performance audits of federal government and private businesses and has helped manage companies with more than 600 employees.
Miloscia said if he does his job correctly, he should be able to reduce the state auditor’s staff by half in six years.
Watkins countered: “Let me say I do not advocate cutting the staff by 50 percent. All of my opponents at one time or another voted to raid the state auditor’s funds.”