Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ky. Auditor’s race up for grabs

Mike Harmon has a dual goal in running against incumbent Adam Edelen for Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts. The Republican challenger is not only hoping to unseat Edelen, he's also looking to sully the Democrat's reputation in order to ruin any shot he might have of beating U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2016.

"If the campaign knocks out Edelen for considering to run next year for the U.S. Senate, so much the better," Harmon, 48, told The Herald Leader in May.

Edelen said at the time he had no plans to run for  a spot on Capitol Hill. But at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic last month, he did take a jab at Sen. Paul as well as GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin after countering Harmon's claim that the down-home values the Democrat projected were not genuine. Speculation about a possible run at the Senate by Edelen continues among political pundits.

Since Fancy Farm, the auditor's race has been pretty quite, giving Harmon's campaign little fodder with which to derail Edelen's hunt for a second term as auditor or any political aspirations he might have beyond the Nov. 3 general election.

Born in Meade County to a farming family, the 40-year-old Edelen now resides in Lexington with his wife and two children. He earned his bachelor's degree in community communication and leadership development from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Since becoming auditor in 2012, Edelen's office has put numerous public officials and entities in the spotlight for questionable finances, including former Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer. Edelen also led the charge to enact state legislation in 2013 intended to bring more accountability to the annual $2.7 billion spent by more than 1,200 special districts in Kentucky that the auditor referred to as "ghost government."

One of seven executive officers elected in Kentucky every four years, the auditor is required to conduct annual examinations of county offices. Some auditors have exercised leeway to go beyond that and audit city offices and quasi-government agencies.

Edelen's latest efforts have focused on counting the number of untested rape kits held as evidence by Kentucky law enforcement agencies. As the result of a resolution passed by lawmakers in March, Edelen issued a report Sept. 21 that showed the state currently has more than 3,000 untested sexual assault kits.

Harmon, a state representative from Danville since 2003, voted for that resolution. He also backed House Bill 1 in 2013 that created transparency with special taxing districts.

An insurance agent, Harmon ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 GOP primary as a lieutenant governor candidate on the ticket with Phil Moffett. But like Edelen, he had no trouble earning his party's nomination last May for auditor. Both men were unopposed.

Harmon holds a bachelor's degree from Eastern Kentucky University, where he majored in math, statistics and theater. He is married with a child and stepchild.

A member of the House Banking and Insurance Committee, Harmon was a loan officer for a mortgage company for five years.

"I understand that every dollar the government confiscates from you is one less dollar you have to save, invest or spend in the manner of your choosing. You deserve a proven fiscal conservative fighting to protect all the tax dollars the Kentucky government collects from you. As your state auditor, I will scrutinize every single dollar the government spends ..," Harmon states on his campaign website.

Harmon's chief campaign advisor resigned in August following a federal indictment related to misconduct tied to his work with other campaigns. Harmon has said he was unaware of Benton's previous activities.

In the most recent Bluegrass Poll in July, Harmon trailed Edelen 31-35, with 34 percent of prospective voters either undecided or uninterested in the race.

The two candidates will be featured on KET's "Kentucky Tonight" on Oct. 5. The hourlong program airs at 7 p.m. and repeats Oct. 7 at 1 a.m.

"Kentucky Tonight" on Monday will feature candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture. It will be aired at 7 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. Wednesday.