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Published: Sunday, 4/18/2010

Suburban Dayton legislator points to experience as CPA

Morgan Morgan
JAN UNDERWOOD / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Seth Morgan was just one of many freshmen faces who joined the General Assembly in 2009 in this age of term limits.

And then he sued the governor of Ohio.

"I do what I believe is right," Mr. Morgan said. "I filed to hold [Gov. Ted Strickland] accountable to the people of Ohio. Certainly as it progressed down the road, it picked up attention."

The 32-year-old Republican state representative and former city councilman from the Dayton suburb of Huber Heights sued the Democratic governor in the Ohio Supreme Court under the state's public records law. He demanded that the governor publicly and quickly release the data and studies that Mr. Strickland cited as leading to his proposed "evidence-based model" for reforming K-12 education.

Still in his first term in the Ohio House, Mr. Morgan, 32, is making another bold move, running for an office that could again put him at odds with the Democratic governor should both win in November.

"I had expressed my interest to [State Auditor Mary Taylor] and [House Minority Leader Bill] Batchelder to run for auditor, presumably in 2014, largely because of my background and how well that coincides with what Mary Taylor has done," he said. "I wasn't on the hunt for a statewide campaign."

But then Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich picked Ms. Taylor as his running mate, creating an immediate GOP void for auditor on the ballot.

Mr. Morgan, a certified public accountant, wasted no time announcing his candidacy. He said he doesn't believe he's made his move too soon.

"People said that when I ran for City Council at the age of 23," he said. "Some complained when I ran for the state House in 2008. I've never been one to shirk away from competition. At the Statehouse level, I hit the ground running."

But first he'll have to run past Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost in the GOP primary election on May 4.

The winner will do battle with Democrat David Pepper and Libertarian L. Michael Howard on Nov. 2.

Mr. Yost originally planned to challenge former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine for the GOP attorney general nomination, but, with some urging from the Ohio Republican Party, Mr. Yost switched to the auditor's race.

That set up a showdown between two candidates who'd both been favorites of the conservative Tea Party movement.

Angered by Mr. Yost's decision to change races, the Tea Party endorsed Mr. Morgan.

Mr. Yost has the Republican Party's official endorsement and financial backing.

Mr. Morgan sees his CPA credentials and his role as president of a management and consulting firm as critical to the job of state auditor.

"As the chief officer, it means I would not have to just take the staff's word for it," Mr. Morgan said. "This has been a problem. How many times have we seen an officer rely too much on staff and then find they got bad advice?"

Mr. Yost, however, said having the initials CPA after a name is not critical to the job, saying the office requires a leader.

"Seth wants to go run spreadsheets," he said. "I don't think the auditor of state actually conducts audits."



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