COLUMBUS - Ohio auditor candidate Mary Taylor yesterday embraced an endorsement from incumbent Betty Montgomery while walking a fine line between criticizing a system she said was "broken" and the office-holder running that system.
Ms. Taylor accepted the boost from the only Republican candidate for statewide nonjudicial office who polls have shown with a clear lead among likely voters going into the Nov. 7 election.
"What broke down with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and what didn't work was a systematic issue," Ms. Taylor said. "My proposals to streamline the internal audit department and to look at the internal controls are two significant steps forward.
"We know these ideas work in the private sector, and the best way to prevent fraudulent spending is to put up roadblocks at every turn," she said.
Ms. Montgomery is now seeking a return to her old job of attorney general. She has faced criticism for her office's failure as the state's fiscal watchdog to catch the alleged theft of millions in BWC dollars invested in rare-coin funds operated by former Maumee coin dealer and Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe.
Noe is now on trial in Toledo on theft and corruption charges, and his defense team has said it may call Ms. Montgomery as a witness.
"Betty Montgomery was watching the store while Tom Noe and other Republican contributors looted the store," said Marc Dann, the Democratic state senator from suburban Youngstown running for attorney general.
"If I were Mary Taylor, I would have appeared at the news conference with a bag over my head," he said.
Barbara Sykes, the Democratic state representative from Akron running against Ms. Taylor, laughed when told about the endorsement.
"I'm just speechless. That's rare for me," she said. "Betty Montgomery has been in that office for the last eight years. It's just impossible to separate that from what has happened and hasn't happened there."
A poll released this week by the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics showed Ms. Montgomery leading Mr. Dann 32 percent to 22 percent among likely voters. Four years ago, she was the top GOP vote-getter at a time when Republicans swept statewide office.
The same poll showed Ms. Sykes, a former Summit County deputy auditor, leading Ms. Taylor 29 percent to 19 percent among likely voters.
A current state representative and former Green city councilman, Ms. Taylor would be the first certified public accountant elected auditor.
"I think that's a remarkable advantage in this race and for her candidacy," Ms. Montgomery said.
Ms. Montgomery doesn't have similar credentials, nor did her predecessors. "Every time requires a different type of management," she said. "We each bring a different set of talents and experiences to the table."
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