By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The race for Alabama state auditor is a rematch between a Republican incumbent who has used the office to decry state corruption — and sometimes draw controversy himself — and a Democratic challenger who points to her background as an auditor.
Republican Auditor Jim Zeigler faces Democratic nominee Miranda Joseph in the Nov. 6 election. The pair ran against each other four years ago for the open seat that Zeigler won.
The primary duty of the office is to inventory and keep up with state property.
Zeigler said he has also tried to be guardian against state corruption, speaking out and sometimes filing ethics complaints and civil lawsuits.
“When I ran four years ago I said I planned to add an additional role to the auditor’s office to be a watchman against waste, mismanagement and corruption,” Zeigler said.
He filed an ethics complaint accusing then-Gov. Robert Bentley of misusing state resources, including state aircraft, security personnel and automobiles, to further a romantic relationship with an aide.
Zeigler also filed a lawsuit challenging Bentley’s plan to wait until 2018 to hold the election to fill Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. After Bentley resigned, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey scheduled a special election for 2017.
Zeigler, 70, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a law degree from Jones Law Institute of Faulkner University. Court records show that Zeigler surrendered his law license this year.
He has also drawn criticism.
During the U.S. Senate race in 2017, Zeigler invoked the Bible to defend Republican Roy Moore, who was accused of pursuing romantic and sexual relationships with teens — including a 14-year-old girl— when he was a prosecutor in his 30s. Moore denied the accusations.
“Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” The Washington Examiner quoted Zeigler as saying.
Asked about the comments, Zeigler said he has “moved on” after Moore lost the Senate race.
In 2015 he gave a speech to the League of the South, group that advocates for the South to secede again and has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Zeigler said he spoke to the group about his effort to return portraits of George and Lurleen Wallace to a more prominent place in the Alabama Capitol.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell in 2017 called on Zeigler to apologize after he posted a photo of Democratic congresswomen who wore white to the presidential address juxtaposed next to an image of Ku Klux Klan members. It had the words,
“Now appearing without hoods… Nancy Pelosi and the Klannettes.” Zeigler removed the post, but told news outlets the time he was sharing his opinion of what he considered a protest against President Donald Trump.
Joseph, 33, is making her third run for the auditor’s office. Joseph said her accounting degree and her work as a certified internal auditor for a financial institution make her the most qualified for the position.
“I am an actual auditor with over 12 years of experience in the private sector. Not only have I been practicing, but I’m actually certified and licensed to audit,” Joseph said. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master of business administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
She said she wants to “audit correctly” in the office.
Joseph said she believes the office of state auditor has become a “laughing stock” for various reasons.
While Zeigler won their last race with 63 percent of the vote, Joseph believes her campaign is gathering momentum this year partly because of “some of the things are current auditor has said and done.”
“A lot of Republicans, as well as Democrats, are looking at me and taking me a little more seriously than they did in previous years,” Joseph said.