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Published: Monday, 10/4/2010

Pepper for state auditor

Ohio's Auditor of State is the alpha watchdog over the performance and finances of state agencies and local governments. The auditor also sits on the state Reapportionment Board, which next year will redraw the boundaries of General Assembly districts. Both duties are important to Ohio taxpayers.

Republican incumbent Mary Taylor's decision to run for lieutenant governor has created an open contest for the auditor's job. Both major-party candidates are experienced and well qualified. The Blade recommends the election of Democrat DAVID PEPPER.

Mr. Pepper is a Hamilton County commissioner and former Cincinnati City Council member. He argues plausibly that his ability to win election in a heavily Republican area shows he can work well with, and gain voter support from, both parties.

That skill will be important, because the next auditor's agenda must include reversing Ms. Taylor's occasional efforts to politicize the office through her choice of high-profile audit targets, such as the Ohio Lottery.

Mr. Pepper offers a comprehensive plan for the auditor's office to combat government fraud and protect whistleblowers. He says he wants to work with public officials and citizens to cut costs and improve efficiency by identifying and eliminating waste in state and local government.

The candidate has worked to cut property taxes and reduce spending as a local elected official. He offers useful proposals on ways local governments and school districts can combine or share government services.

He identifies the gerrymandering of legislative districts as a major cause of partisan polarization and inaction in Columbus, and of a lack of choice and accountability for voters. His emphasis on working to create more competition for legislative seats would be a critical exercise of the auditor's role.

Mr. Pepper's Republican opponent is Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost, a former county auditor. He argues that his experience in both positions will enable him to detect and combat fraud.

Mr. Yost offers sensible ideas for ensuring that recommendations from the auditor's office are carried out, and for improving the way the state makes revenue estimates. His proposal that the office should review the performance of every state agency every five years could help take politics out of the process. His ideas for using data on private-sector pay to improve performance in the public sector are sound.

Mr. Yost's sincere interest in the auditor's job is evident. Yet it's troubling that the state Republican Party has treated the auditor's nomination this year as a sort of consolation prize.

Mr. Yost initially planned to run for Ohio attorney general, but was recruited by state GOP leaders to switch to the auditor's race when Ms. Taylor's plans became clear. He easily defeated a Tea Party-backed candidate in the May primary.

By contrast, Mr. Pepper has focused on winning the auditor's job since he launched his campaign in May, 2009. Such determination, coupled with his demonstrated skills, make him an appealing candidate.

Along with Mr. Yost, Libertarian candidate L. Michael Howard is on the ballot. But DAVID PEPPER offers voters the best prospect of becoming an effective, independent state auditor.


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