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Vermont Primary Profile: State auditor’s race

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 6:13 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Three candidates are on the ballot vying for the nomination of state auditor in the August 11 Vermont primary. The position, which largely avoids the political limelight, is tasked with auditing the performance of government, a financial watchdog who looks for fraud and waste within state government and then makes recommendations to lawmakers.

"You want a smart person who's inquisitive who cares about the details and can do the work," said Doug Hoffer, D-Vt. State Auditor, who has held the position since 2013. Before taking office he spent nearly two decades as a policy analyst and six years on the Burlington Electric Commission.

His office has published numerous audits, scrutinizing everything from state economic development incentives to health care reform. He says his career is based on examining and dissecting data and policy.

"That's how I built a reputation as a consultant, as a policy analyst. I've never messed with the facts. Whatever the facts are, that's what I'm going to tell you. I might not like them, you might not like them, but that's what it is. The only thing we have to work with is our reputation," Hoffer said.

For the first time since he’s been in office, he has a challenger in the Democratic primary August 11 -- Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan, D-Dorset.

Sullivan is a certified public accountant and is quick to point out her Hoffer lacks that credential. She says she wants to reduce turnover in the office. “I would change the definition of how that office was run and make it less policy, and follow the standards that are required,” she said.

If elected, she says her skills would let her work alongside staff in the auditor's office. "I speak the language of the auditors. I can actually oversee what they are doing and if necessary roll up my sleeves and work with them through the process," Sullivan said.

Whoever wins will have a mountain of taxpayer funds to keep track of. Vermont is spending over a billion dollars in federal COVID relief cash. Hoffer and Sullivan agree that whoever wins will have to make sure the cash is being spent correctly or else the feds will make Vermont pay it back.

"I would go from branch to branch and work with them to make sure that we aren't the first ones to have our funds pulled back," Sullivan said.

"There's a lot of money out there right now and they need a lot of money, no question," Hofffer said.

Perennial Progressive candidate Cris Ericson from Chester is also running for auditor.

There are no GOP candidates running for auditor in the primary.

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