Defending a barrage of insults from her opponent, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, D-Columbia, came out swinging during her first meeting with Republican Saundra McDowell at a Missouri Press Association candidate forum Friday afternoon.
The forum at many times became heated as the two candidates traded barbs, and at one point McDowell referred to Galloway as a “dog.”
When the candidates were asked how important it is for the state auditor to be a certified public accountant (CPA), which Galloway is, McDowell took a shot at the incumbent.
McDowell, an attorney, repeatedly emphasized the state auditor needs to have a legal background to ensure any wrongdoing uncovered would be prosecuted.
“As an attorney, I am just as, or more qualified than, anyone who has ever held the office of auditor,” McDowell said. “You have to look into audits with a big picture attitude.”
Galloway answered the criticisms with shots of her own, questioning McDowell’s actual residency in the state at the time of filing for election.
She also brought up the fact McDowell has had her wages garnished seven times in the past five years for a total of $50,000.
“Qualifications and experience absolutely do matter,” Galloway said. “I have results in this office; my opponent is not qualified. In fact, I would be hesitant to hire her as an entry level auditor in my office.”
This statement led McDowell to the perhaps unintended insult referring to a few recent Sunshine Law grievances against the auditor’s office.
“She (Galloway) claims to be a watchdog,” McDowell said. “If you’re not being a watchdog, then you’re just a dog.”
Galloway is currently the only Democrat and female who holds a statewide elected office other than U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who coincidently served as state auditor for many years.
Although she is a Democrat, Galloway says party affiliation should not be a factor in the auditor’s office.
“You must be independent,” she explained. “I’ve done audits on members of my own party. People should be held accountable no matter what party they are in.”
McDowell said she disagrees with the notion of impartiality in the office.
“You want to know what values the auditor has,” McDowell said. “I think it helps.”
One of the few things both candidates agreed on is they would like to see the office of auditor have more authority to do their work and to have more attention paid to audits that are conducted, but those authorities are expanded only by the state Legislature.
“I have worked with the Legislature to expand our authority,” Galloway said. “We’ve had 35 criminal counts brought because of our audits.”
McDowell agreed the office needs to have more bite.
“When you are conducting audits you need to have an eye toward litigation,” McDowell said. “She (Galloway) is a CPA not an attorney.”