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Candidates For Ky. Auditor Square Off In Televised Debate

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Kentucky’s candidates for state auditor debated on KET Monday night, sharing different ideas of how the office should be used to investigate state government spending.

Democrat Sheri Donohue, a former naval engineer, is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Harmon, a former state representative who was elected to the office in 2015.

Harmon said that he should be reelected because his office “follows the data,” regardless of party politics.

“Whether you’re a Republican, Democratic, Independent, Libertarian, it’s important for us to address it, and we’ve done that,” Harmon said.

Harmon has conducted special investigations into the Kentucky Wired state broadband project, pension agencies’ compliance with state transparency law and misuse of funds by the state courts administration.

The primary duty of the state auditor is to audit the financial accounts and spending of state and county government agencies. The auditor also conducts special investigations and has subpoena power to compel documents and other information from state agencies.

Donahue accused Harmon of not looking into Gov. Matt Bevin’s economic development initiatives like Braidy Industries, the eastern Kentucky aluminum plant that is backed by a company formerly headed by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

“Are these companies holding up their end of the deal? Are they bringing the jobs they’re promising? Are they bringing the quality jobs when they do? I don’t see that that is being followed up on,” Donohue said.

Donohue also said that Harmon should look into Bevin’s use of the state plane, which has come under fire in recent weeks.

Harmon dismissed accusations that he was pulling punches on the Bevin administration.

“We do have subpoena power, but we don’t have prosecutorial power. It’s important for us not to target anyone, it’s important for us not to give anybody a pass but just to simply follow the data,” Harmons said.

Harmon defeated incumbent Democratic Auditor Adam Edelen in 2015.

Donahue is a retired Naval engineer from Louisville. She is the president emeritus of InfraGard National Members Alliance, a nonprofit that coordinates between U.S. businesses and the FBI.

She said that her experience would help her make sure tax dollars are being used effectively.

“The cornerstone of our democracy is people having faith in government. Faith that government cares about us. Faith that government will effectively respond to our needs and faith that our voices and votes will be heard and counted,” Donohue said.

Libertarian candidate Kyle Hugenberg is also running. He said that he should be elected because he isn’t associated with the two major political parties.

“It’s just the nature of the beast. The Republicans and Democrats have been working together to control the political spectrum for the last hundred years or so,” Hugenberg said.

Correction: Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is the former chairman of Rusal, the company that backed Braidy Industries, not the owner.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.