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State auditor's race back to being low-key

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6 2012 8:27 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The usually low-key state auditor's race heated up during a GOP primary that eliminated the longtime incumbent, Auston Johnson, but it appears to have cooled down since.

Voters will chose between Republican John Dougall, a state representative, and Democrat Mark Sage, an activist, to watch over the books of both local and state government agencies.

Dougall cites his experience as a state lawmaker over the past decade, including his time as the House budget vice chairman, as qualifying him for a job he describes as protecting taxpayer funds.

Sage, involved with initiatives to reform both legislative ethics and the process of redrawing political boundaries based on census results, said he has spent his career protecting the public interest.

Johnson, a CPA who has worked in the auditor's office since 1976 and has served as the state auditor for 17 years, lost the June GOP primary to Dougall, 47 percent to 53 percent.

Dougall's campaign stresses what he sees as the need for the state auditor to be a more aggressive government watchdog, conducting performance as well as financial audits of state agencies.

"Financial audits focus on how taxpayer money is spent. Performance audits identify on well it is spent," Dougall said, providing verification of whether agencies are using funds as efficiently as possible.

He said performance audits could also help the state determine which functions should be privatized.

Sage said the auditor's office needs to be independent to ensure the public trust is preserved in government's financial dealings. He said Dougall is too closely tied to the Legislature.

"It is essential that we elect a person with a track record of independence and support for ethical government, not one that has spent the past decade being a part of the problem," he said.

Sage also criticized Dougall for sponsoring the controversial HB477 last year, seen as gutting the state's open records act that was later repealed amid massive public protests.

Email: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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