2018 Minnesota State Auditor: Julie Blaha vs. Pam Myhra

What does the auditor do? They’re in charge of making sure local governments spend their money properly. Auditor is supposed to be a role focused on transparency and good government. That’s something we value in Minnesota and historically have had.

Rebecca Otto is the current auditor and has served since 2007. She opted to run for governor and dropped out after losing the DFL endorsement.

Fun fact: One of Minnesota’s early auditors when we were still a territory was Socrates Nelson. Now there’s a name!

The two candidates are Democrat Julie Blaha and Republican Pam Myhra (OK, yeah, there are a few other minor party candidates, but I’m ignoring them.)

Blaha is a former middle school math teacher, worked for Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, and served as the chief financial officer for the Minnesota AFL-CIO, a multi-million dollar organization with over 300,000 members.

Myhra is a certified public accountant (CPA), former audit manager for an international public accounting firm, and former state representative.

Nix State Auditor?

There’s some debate over whether or not this position should be privatized. The legislature passed a law in 2015 allowing counties to hire private audit firms. Blaha is opposed to this kind of privatization while Myhra supports it. It starts to get into whether the position of state auditor even needs to exist, and I really can’t speak to that.

Apolitical Auditors?

There’s also talk about how this office should be apolitical, but both sides seem to have politicized the heck out of it. Myhra tweets about her excitement at seeing Trump in Rochester, while Blaha is endorsed by every Democratic organization you can imagine.

Both have had party roles for years, Myhra as a state representative and failed bids for Congress and lieutenant governor. Blaha has been a precinct chair for the DFL for decades and works in unions, but this is her first run for office.

And then I came across this bit of weirdness. Some letters to the editor supporting Myhra reference a daycare fraud controversy with unsubstantiated allegations about funds being funneled to Somali terrorists. Myhra slapped the letters on her website, Blaha called it “dangerous, racially charged rhetoric,” Myhra said she would be “responsive to concerns of taxpayers and not bully them into taking down their comments or suppressing concerns when based on legitimate news stories,” and Blaha responded with a press release saying, “The media report from which these rumors began has been roundly criticized for poor investigation, inaccuracy, and lack of evidence. These rumors remain unsubstantiated.” Whew.

So it seems like both of them will be good at thoroughly politicizing the position (sigh).

The Experience

I was thinking of leaning toward Myhra. She seems to have the experience. She keeps talking about being a CPA.

And then I see a comparison of the candidates that condescendingly describes Blaha as a math teacher. In my circles, being a teacher demands respect. Being a teacher does require a certain amount of communicating complicated concepts that would be pretty valuable in this job. And have you ever tried to corral middle schoolers? However, the writer makes a point about Myhra’s experience with audits. But I think he undersells Blaha quite a bit (she was CFO of a major organization for goodness’ sake).

Also, Mhyra’s a teacher as well. From 1991 to 2009 she taught at Forest Hill Christian Academy in Burnsville. That much-valued CPA experience? She last worked as an auditor in the 1980s. Then there’s this write up of the race that points out that Minnesota has never had an auditor who was a CPA. So while CPA is a great qualification, it’s hardly required and doesn’t seem like very recent experience.

So I think experience is a wash.

Party Politics

What I think it comes down to for me is party politics. As a state legislator, Myhra had a number of votes that I find troubling: yes to prohibiting same sex marriage and no to authorizing it, yes to voter ID, no to unions, no to increasing the minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to bullying policies in schools, yes to anti-environmental rules, no to health exchanges, no to expanding Medicaid eligibility, etc.

For the sports ball fans in the audience, Myhra did vote no on the Vikings stadium, for whatever that’s worth.

I get it’s supposed to be an apolitical position, but it’s already clear both candidates are politicizing it. And I guess if I have to pick a political person for an apolitical office, I sure don’t want someone I so completely disagree with.


So I guess I’m going with Blaha. I’m not entirely sold, and mostly feel like I’m voting for party here, which doesn’t feel great.

There’s also this: Blaha created some crop art for the Minnesota State Fair where she said she was a “bean counter.” That’s hilarious. And a ridiculous reason to vote for somebody, but if that works for you, go for it.

Vote November 6

As always, I encourage you to do your own research, and then be sure to vote November 6 (or earlier).

If you need more info, here are a few things I found:

3 thoughts on “2018 Minnesota State Auditor: Julie Blaha vs. Pam Myhra”

  1. Hunh. It’s an weird experience to see myself negatively cited here. I mean, fair enough, I think you and I disagree on nearly everything under the sun, but still. I came here to see what you thought about the Justen/Probst race in my ward before I started my own write-up and I found this. It’s weird!

    Math teachers are great. I come from a family of teachers. My grandfather was his middle school’s union rep for roughly umpteen years. They are certainly deserving of great respect.

    But I don’t think that being a math teacher is at all relevant to the office of state auditor, particularly when running against an actual auditor. I’m a software engineer. That’s not a credential I’d put at the top of my resume when running for auditor, either.

    As for daycaregate, I think interpreting the candidates’ disagreement about a serious auditing problem as “politicization” of the auditors’ office is a pretty enormous reach, but once you’ve decided the office is bound to be politicized you’re right that it makes sense to vote for your usual color, whatever that is. I hold out hope that Auditor won’t follow the politicized path of the SoS and the A.G., but time could prove me wrong, and that’d be a sad day for the state — as the agonizing choice you discuss in your Wardlow/Ellison write-up illustrates.

    Anyway, thanks for your WSP coverage. You’ve been an incredibly useful source of information for me, particularly with respect to the inexcusable online postings for Mr. Meisinger.

  2. James: Thanks for speaking up. I suppose being cited in a write-up like this is just evidence of how little there is out there about these races. So thanks for writing it. I did appreciate your perspective, and I’m glad we both agree about the respect teachers deserve.

    I’m also glad we agree on Meisinger.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I found it very helpful as I cram to make voting decisions for this Tuesday. I resonate with your qualms about voting along party lines. I’m going to do that on a couple of races and don’t like it, but do so for the reasons you mention.

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