A former middle school teacher and AFL-CIO union leader is the latest candidate to join the race for Minnesota state auditor — a field that now features three DFL candidates but no announced Republican contenders.
Julie Blaha, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO and a resident of Ramsey, announced her candidacy over the weekend. She joins two candidates who had already launched their campaigns: Jon Tollefson of Minneapolis, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Nurses Association, and Jack Dickinson, a business owner who is also from Minneapolis.
The state auditor oversees spending and other local government functions of cities and counties across the state. It's one of a handful of statewide offices on the ballot in 2018, and the race is attracting attention because it will likely not include an incumbent. State Auditor Rebecca Otto, a DFLer who has held the seat since 2007, is running for governor.
Tollefson, who was the first to announce his campaign, previously worked as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department and has worked on advocacy efforts for LGBT workers and political candidates. He was a candidate for Minnesota's Third Congressional District seat in 2016, but he dropped out to support the DFL candidate in the general election, Terri Bonoff.
Dickinson is the chief executive of Sand Creek Post & Beam, a manufacturer of wood barns and homes that was started by his family. He moved into that role after starting a small business that was bought out by the family business.
Blaha is a former president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota and worked as a middle school math and science teacher in Champlin.
At least two of the candidates — Tollefson and Dickinson — have raised concerns about the possibility of GOP lawmakers looking to abolish the auditor's position. The office is involved in a legal battle over a 2015 state law that allowed counties to hire private firms to perform audits, rather than the state. Otto challenged the law in court and has appealed earlier decisions to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case next month.