The Office of the State Auditor is not one of the more high-profile constitutional offices in Minnesota. But in the last week, the bulk of Minnesota's political news has focused on the intra-party DFL battle between incumbent State Auditor Rebecca Otto and former Representative Matt Entenza.
On the last day of the filing period for candidates to run for office in 2014, Entenza filed a campaign to challenge Otto in the DFL primary this August. In the first week of Entenza vs. Otto, a complaint was filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings by Entenza, over comments made by Otto in a Facebook post about her past votes in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Entenza vs. Otto has divided the Minnesota DFL, with elected officials and party officers taking sides to support either Entenza or Otto.
Politics in Minnesota is never boring and now the race for state auditor gets a chance to earn some big headlines like the top races have received over the last few election cycles. But the harsh tone of the race between Entenza and Otto has generated questions about how political the role of state auditor should be in Minnesota.
Mark Haveman, the executive director of the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, wrote a commentary "The politicizing of the Minnesota state auditor's office", which was published in the Star Tribune on June 9, 2014.
The politicization of the role of state auditor wasn't suddenly triggered by a DFL primary between Entenza and Otto, as softly mentioned by Haveman. Past state auditors became very adept at using their public service to find greater electoral success in future Minnesota campaigns.
In the recent history of Minnesota politics, state auditors have been elected to higher office at a more successful rate than any other constitutional office holder. In the last thirty-six years, two former state auditors have been elected governor of Minnesota: Arne Carlson (served as state auditor from 1979 to 1991) and Mark Dayton (served as state auditor from 1991 to 1995).
Two other state auditors, Pat Anderson (served as state auditor from 2003 to 2007) and Judi Dutcher (served as state auditor from 1995 to 2003), both ran unsuccessfully for governor. Dutcher also was the DFL endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006. Also, Bob Mattson (served as state auditor from 1975 to 1979) was later elected to the Office of Minnesota State Treasurer.
Even Otto hasn't stayed away from mixing politics with her role as state auditor. Last year, Otto sent out a fundraising e-mail for her campaign which promoted her vote on the State Executive Council against mineral leases on the Iron Range.
The Office of State Auditor is a partisan role, one where candidates raise money and run campaigns for the opportunity to serve. Politics won't be leaving the state auditor's office anytime soon.