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3 Republicans on ballot to be next state auditor

By MARY SELL and HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The May 24 GOP primary ballot has three candidates vying to be the state’s next auditor, a job that will likely include defending the very existence of the office to lawmakers looking to eliminate it to save money.

The candidates are Stan Cooke, a Kimberly pastor, former lawmaker Rusty Glover of Mobile and current lawmaker Andrew Sorrell of Muscle Shoals.

Sorrell was leading the race, according to recent polling done for Alabama Daily News and Gray Television, but as of last week there was still a large chunk of undecided voters.

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“I’m a consistent conservative that voters can count on,” Sorrell said about his track record during his first term in the Alabama House. Sorrell is a regular “no” vote on spending measures, including the state budgets.

Candidates said the office’s responsibilities should be expanded, not diminished.

State Rep. Andrew Sorrell and wife, Hannah

“The State Auditor’s Office is the only constitutional office that gives the citizens of Alabama a window of accountability and transparency to look through to see how their state government runs and functions and how the state government spends their tax dollars,” Cooke said.

Cooke said he would bring 20 years of experience in private industry inventory control, warehouse management and property management.

Stan Cooke

Glover said that if elected, he’d use his State House relationships to ensure the office’s future.

“I feel like I would be able to, by far, get the attention of the Legislature to get the funding needed for the program because if not, we can’t do the audits,” Glover said.

“… The office might survive if I’m elected.”

Rusty Glover

In recent years, legislation in the State House proposed to  do away with the Alabama Auditor’s Office and transfer its duties to the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts Department. This year, the bill was approved in the Senate but died in the House on the final night of the session.

The auditor’s position is created in the state’s constitution, so abolishing it would have to be approved by Alabama voters through a constitutional amendment. 

The auditor’s office reports to the governor receipts and disbursement of revenues collected and paid into the treasury. It’s also responsible for the accounting of state property costing $500 or more.

The examiner’s office can audit the books, accounts, and records of all state and county offices, officers, bureaus, boards, commissions, corporations, departments, and agencies and to report on expenditures, contracts, or other audit findings found to be in violation of law.

Next year’s General Fund budget increases funding for the office by $100,000 to $963,258. That’s the highest it’s been since about 2014 when a series of cuts began, dropping funding in 2017 to about $760,400.

In 2020, the office had eight employees, according to the Alabama Personnel Department.

Both Cooke and Glover said they believe the office needs more state funding to adequately perform its duties.

“The people expect that the items purchased with their money is accounted for,” Glover said. He said more staff is needed.

Cooke said he’d suggest having auditors positioned in Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery, rather than all driving from Montgomery to conduct record keeping. He also thinks technology upgrades would allow for better management and better communication with the state treasurer and finance office.

Sorrell said he didn’t know if the additional $100,000 in next year’s budget will be enough for the office, “but I don’t want a penny more than is necessary.” 

Current Auditor Jim Zeigler is term limited and one of three Republicans running for secretary of state. There are no Democrats running for auditor.

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