Ohio Election 2022: Keith Faber and Taylor Sappington run for Ohio Auditor
Republican incumbent Keith Faber and Democratic candidate Taylor Sappington say they both have plans to bring about accountability and transparency as Ohio’s auditor, but disagree on the scope of the office’s authority.
The auditor is the state’s chief compliance officer and audits around 5,900 local, county, and state public offices in Ohio.
Faber, the current auditor, is a former state representative, state senator, and Senate president. He said his office has had the opportunity to do “good government” during his first term.
“Whether that's being one of the first auditors in the office in the nation to catch the unemployment fraud and overpayments, which has now resulted in more than $5 billion in fraud and overpayments just in Ohio, we think convincingly that if we hadn't called that problem out earlier, the problem would be billions of dollars bigger,” said Faber.
Sappington is the auditor in the Athens County community of Nelsonville.
Nelsonville is still classified as a city and not a village because Sappington pushed to challenge the 2020 census results, and brought in volunteer canvassers who found nearly 800 residents who hadn’t been counted.
He said he’s been concerned about the lack of challenges to Ohio’s one-party rule.
“I'm running to balance the books and catch the crooks. And it's not just a catchy phrase although it is a catchy phrase. Right. But it explains what is going on in just one sentence. And I think people understand that intuitively. They understand they want their money to be handled responsibly, but they also understand there's corruption in Ohio and it needs taken on,” Sappington said.
One of the specific things Sappington talks about is the nuclear bailout law House Bill 6, now at the center of a federal corruption case, with the trial for Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder set for January.
He said Faber could be doing more on the questions surrounding that law.
“The auditor has an incredible ability to look through these places like the PUCO board, to look through where state money is going, to look at the statehouse and to take all this information in and say, let's show the public our leaders and administrators what went wrong here and how do we prevent it from happening again? Unfortunately, Keith Faber's done none of that. He's left it to the feds who are not going to do that report for us. Our leaders are going to have to do that,” Sappington said.
Faber said that case is being investigated by the FBI’s public corruption task force, which his office has worked with. But he said Sappington doesn’t understand the restrictions of the auditor’s office.
“House Bill 6 seems to revolve around legislature issues, campaign finance issues in a private company. We don't have jurisdiction over auditing legislative activity and corruption – the legislative ethics commission does that. We don't have jurisdiction over campaign finance sector. The state’s office does that. And we certainly don't have jurisdiction over private companies,” said Faber.
The auditor sits on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, along with the governor and the secretary of state. The process to redraw state House and Senate district maps and congressional district maps will start again after this election – which is using maps approved by Republicans on the commission that the Ohio Supreme Court determined are unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
Faber helped create the new redistricting process passed in two ballot issues. And he voted against Republican-approved legislative maps three times because of concerns about compactness and political subdivision splits – but not the same concerns on those issues that Democrats raised.
Faber has said both sides are entrenched.
“I have said this process has not worked like we anticipated. It has not worked very well. And in reality, as I said in the first court case, I think the people went to their respective sides and anticipated litigation instead of cooperation. I tried to work with the Democrats initially. I've tried to work with the Democrats as recently as the last maps that we passed,” Faber said.
The map drawing process is a key talking point for many Democrats, who said it’s contributed to Republican party dominance and extremism, and Sappington said he’s aware his party would have to win one of the other two statewide executive offices on the commission to gain control of redistricting.
“My word is my contract and I'm going to deliver maps that make sense for our neighborhoods that are fair and honest and competitive not partisan. And so, sure, we got to win some races. We got to get on there. But the main point is, is that the sooner we get back to talking about maps that make sense for neighborhoods from Cleveland to Nelsonville to Cincinnati, that's when we'll be on the right track,” Sappington said.
It’s notable that Sappington is the first LGBTQ major party candidate for statewide office in Ohio.
The auditor’s office may not get much attention, but several auditors have eventually run for governor.
Only one succeeded – Jim Rhodes. Three of the last five auditors, who were all Republicans, went on to become attorney general – Jim Petro, Betty Montgomery, and Dave Yost.