By Jon E. Easter
While Tom McKenna and Vop Osili battle to the ballot box on Saturday, the decision will be very easy for delegates in the Treasurer of State and Auditor of State races. They have just one candidate vying for each office: Pete Buttigieg and Sam Locke.
Southern Indiana's Locke will be the Democratic nominee for Indiana Auditor to face incumbent Republican Tim Berry. The auditor is a critical office in state government because it's up to that officeholder to pay the state's bills accurately and in a reasonable manner. Locke has been barnstorming the state from one end to the other in drumming up support. On the trail, he talks about updating the office and bringing it into the 21st Century. He also wants to make it more consumer-friendly.
At the Decatur Township Democratic Club meeting in December, Locke talked about his plans. He could save the state money by making some innovative changes in the Auditor's Office. Locke said that the state currently fails to implement what he calls an "accounts payable recovery system" to make sure the state isn't paying vendors more than once for the same service or that fraud is not occurring. He believes he can save $10 million with this simple innovation at little or no cost to the state.
He also advocated more transparency in the Auditor's Office by opening up the process of asking for records. He said that he recently contacted Auditor of State Tim Berry asking for four pieces of public information. It took 30 days for Berry's Office to answer only half of the request, and the state charged $17.30 for copies.
Locke said the City of Louisville has implemented a free web application created by a vendor that allows users to type in a simple search term such as "salt" and that provides the user with all the details on the city's purchases of salt including how much was paid and to whom. He said there's not any reason why the state couldn't implement the same system again, at little or no cost.
Northern Indiana's Buttigieg has also been all over the state drumming up support. He is taking on Republican incumbent Richard Mourdock head on by criticizing Mourdock's decision to sue Chrysler and hold up its bankruptcy. He also says that Mourdock has invested state revenue in, essentially, junk bonds. Buttigieg has also, I believe, rightly accused Mourdock of being overly partisan as Treasurer. Many believe that Mourdock is trying to use his position as a stepping stone to launch a run for Governor in 2012.
Today, Buttigieg, a Rhoades Scholar, released a statement on his decision to not take money from the banking industry to fund his campaign. Here is a portion of the release:
In a little more than 72 hours, I will officially accept the Democratic nomination to be Indiana's next State Treasurer, but first, I want to share some important news about our campaign with you.
Today I am announcing that my campaign will refuse all contributions from banks.
That means I will not accept corporate or political action committee (PAC) donations from any bank, including those doing business with the State Treasurer's office and those that accepted federal bailout money. Using federal limits as model, I am also imposing a cap on the amount individuals employed in the banking industry can donate to my campaign.
Despite whatever financial disadvantage it might create between my opponent and me, I decided to take this step publicly because it's the right thing to do. Hoosiers should never have to wonder whether decisions made in the Treasurer's Office about where their money is being placed are affected by campaign contributions - and when I am State Treasurer, they won't.
I am also pledging, once elected, to work with the Indiana General Assembly to introduce and pass legislation to prohibit all political contributions by banks to anyone running for the office of Treasurer, and to put contribution limits in place on individuals who work at banks.
Some advised me not to do this, because given the thousands of dollars the big banks and Wall Street firms are pumping into my opponent's campaign, I would be at a disadvantage.
Thanks to your help, this scrappy campaign has come out of nowhere in a matter of months and is now just hours away from securing the Democratic nomination. We've traveled the state introducing our ideas to voters and discussing the issues that matter most to Hoosier families. And, along the way, we've proven it doesn't take special interest backing to run an effective campaign - it just takes supporters like you.
Locke said the Auditor serves on the State Board of Finance with the Governor and the Treasurer. When Buttigieg and Locke are in office, for the first time Mitch Daniels could experience what it's like to be outnumbered.
There's a long way to go, and the fight is uphill. Republicans have the advantage of incumbency and of holding these offices for many years. That said, these two young Democrats along with whomever wins the Secretary of State nod provide Indiana Democrats with a geographically balanced, credible, and extremely qualified ticket. Indiana voters will have a clear choice to make in November.