This is a statewide race. The Minnesota State Auditor’s office audits local governments and counties. They have a FAQ but it’s pretty technical. The office has existed since before Minnesota was technically even a state; despite being fairly low-profile, it’s been a springboard to higher office for a number of people who’ve served in that role, including Arne Carlson and Mark Dayton. Judi Dutcher ran for Lieutenant Governor after serving as auditor, as Mike Hatch’s running mate, but lost; current Auditor Rebecca Otto tried for the governorship this year but dropped out after not receiving the DFL endorsement.
I think that this job may have worked so well for Arne and Mark (and Judi came really close — if Hatch hadn’t called a reporter a “Republican whore” after Judi muffed a question on E85, she’d probably have gotten to the Lieutenant Governorship, although arguably Auditor is a better job anyway) in part because done right, it’s really apolitical. We can argue across party lines about how tax money ought to be spent, but none of us — I hope? — is going to defend graft and blatant waste, which is what auditors are generally looking for. So you get to spend 4+ years doing things that basically everyone in the state, if they notice you’re doing it, is probably going to approve of.
Weirdly, Rebecca Otto managed to really piss me off. My older daughter used to do Junior Roller Derby, which for years had practice space at the Minneapolis National Guard Armory. They abruptly lost their practice space when (I found out quite some time later) Rebecca Otto told them they could no longer rent out the facility after normal business hours. Why? I still don’t know! I sent her two e-mail messages and got no response at all, ever. (It’s still not 100% clear to me why this was even something she oversaw.)
This is also one of the jobs where in the past I voted for a Republican. I quite liked Judi Dutcher and voted for her in 1998. (She then switched to the DFL in 2000, sensibly enough.)
To add to the overall confusion about what this person actually does, in 2015 a law got passed saying that counties could opt to hire private auditing firms instead of using the State Auditor. This makes me nervous, although the larger counties have been allowed to hire private auditors for years. More than half of Minnesota counties opted for private firms to do this in 2016 (probably in part because it’s cheaper.) Rebecca Otto sued over this and lost. So what’s even going to happen with this office? Are they likely to ditch it completely, like they ditched the office of the State Treasurer? Do we actually need a State Auditor overseeing all this stuff or is it reasonable to just require counties to have an auditor come in? Several candidates talked about this but I did not come away feeling exactly enlightened.
Anyway. On the ballot:
Chris Dock (Libertarian)
Pam Myhra (Republican)
Julie Blaha (DFL)
Michael Ford (Legal Marijuana Now)