SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — With polls showing Democrat Maura Healey holding a huge lead over GOP nominee Geoff Diehl in the race for governor, some Massachusetts Republicans are looking elsewhere on the ballot for their best chance to win.
That’s put a spotlight on the typically low-profile race for state auditor, a position responsible for scrutinizing the finances and operations of state agencies. Current Auditor Suzanne Bump, a Democrat who has held the job for 12 years, is retiring.
The Republican vying to replace Bump is Anthony Amore, the only GOP candidate running statewide this year who has the endorsement of popular outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker. He faces Diana DiZoglio, a Democratic state senator from Methuen who won a competitive primary.
Amore — a Rhode Island native who graduated from Classical High School — has emphasized his support from Baker on the campaign trail, and made the case that voters who are otherwise marking their ballots for Democrats should elect at least one Republican for balance.
“I think that the voters — the unenrolled, the Democrats — should look at me and say, he’s a moderate, he’s experienced, he’s skilled, he knows how to do the job, he’s committed to being professional not political,” Amore told 12 News. He added, “I think the idea of being able to deliver checks and balances on Beacon Hill is unique.”
Amore argued he has more experience than DiZoglio to do the job of auditor, pointing to his years as head of security at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, as well as his degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“I love the prospect of rooting out waste, fraud and abuse,” he said. “I’ve done investigations for decades, and the opportunity to be able to use the skills I honed to find facts and to follow those facts and see where they lead me, and then as auditor present them to the public, is really an exciting opportunity.”
Yet DiZoglio rejects the idea that voters must elect a Republican if they want an adequate check on the Democrats who dominate Beacon Hill.
“I don’t think that there needs to be a Democratic check on the Republicans or a Republican check on the Democrats,” she told 12 News.
DiZoglio pointed to her record in the Senate, where she repeatedly crossed Democratic leadership and probed the Baker administration, to argue she won’t be afraid to hold the powerful accountable as auditor. One of her top priorities is conducting an audit the state legislature itself, even though her legal authority to do so has been questioned.
“We need somebody who has an independent voice and an independent record, and I am that candidate in this race,” she said, adding, “We need somebody who’s been able to stand up to both parties, and I’ve been able to do just that.”
Lisa Kashinsky, who covers Massachusetts for Politico, said the auditor’s race is the closest thing to a competitive statewide contest on the ballot this November. But that’s only when compared with other races featuring Democrats who are doing even better than DiZoglio; she still led Amore by double-digits in a recent poll.
Kashinsky said Baker’s support for Amore is part of a larger battle for control of the state GOP, whose conservative chairman, Ed Lyons, has long sought to supplant the more moderate wing of the party represented by Baker and predecessors such as Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci.
“Anthony Amore is the only moderate Republican who was nominated out of all of the Republicans running,” she said.
Both auditor candidates have faced questions about their past in the final weeks of the campaign, with DiZoglio under scrutiny over her youthful membership in a conservative church and Amore criticized over his divorce.
Three other candidates are also on the ballot for auditor: Gloria Caballero-Roca of the Green-Rainbow Party; Dominic Giannone III of the Workers Party; and Daniel Riek, a Libertarian.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook