The race for state auditor provides Nebraska voters with a choice.
Incumbent Charlie Janssen, a Republican from Fremont, was twice elected to the Nebraska Legislature — serving from 2009-2014 — before serving as auditor from 2014 until present.
Opponent Jane Skinner, a Democrat from Omaha, has not held previous elected offices, though she did work for two years for the City of Omaha at the public library.
Skinner said she is running for office because she felt it needed to be done.
“I think the office of auditor of public accounts has become partisan and weaponized. The office does not exist to further the agenda of the governor or any one party at large,” Skinner said.
She’s a candidate worth supporting because she wants to do the work, she said.
“This office is too important to be used simply as a stepping stone to governor or federal office. Entire towns can live and die at a stroke of the pen under an audit. I want to show up on time and really put in everything the job deserves,” Skinner said.
The final comment was in reference to recent news reports that indicated Janssen regularly took long lunches and didn’t maintain a 40-hour work week in his office.
But Janssen said he is seeking re-election to continue the good work that has been done over nearly the last four years.
“Our office has conducted more audits and examinations than in any four-year period, and we have saved taxpayers millions of dollars uncovering fraud and misappropriation of taxpayer resources. We have also worked with the legislature to clarify and expand the auditor’s office’s authority to perform audits and reviews of agencies where taxpayer funds are allocated and used,” Janssen said.
Janssen said he is a candidate worth supporting because he is the only one in the race with hands-on experience running a successful business and dealing with complex finances and procedures in the auditor’s office.
“Under my leadership, the office has a track record of saving taxpayers millions of dollars and working with agencies to improve performance in the future,” he said. “The office has performed extremely well in my nearly four years, and I would like voters to send me back to keep doing this important job.”
The top three issues in his race include continuing to provide timely and accurate audits and budget reviews “to assure our government agencies and those who use taxpayer funds are using their money as intended in accordance with our laws.”
Other issues are continuing to work with the Legislature and state agency department heads to improve laws and practices to use tax dollars, and experience.
“A sound background in business and business principles is vital to filling the role of state auditor. I have that track record of success,” Janssen said.
Skinner’s three most important issues include innovating the office.
“I’ve heard reports from around the state that the auditor’s office is still using a lot of old-fashioned techniques, such as doing math by hand or that they are not up to date on the most recent regulations. There is simply no excuse, in this day and age, for doing things the hard way, and I think the auditor’s office could use a person who has new ideas and experience working with databases and information science,” she said.
Her second issue is to de-politicize the office. Skinner said she has long felt the incumbent “is a Republican first and an auditor second.”
“How can the office be an effective watchdog when he is under the thumb of the governor and uses the office to execute the governor’s pernicious agenda? Elected positions are not sinecures, and I would treat it with the seriousness and nonpartisanship that it deserves,” Skinner said.
Her final top issue is to restore dignity to the office. Skinner said she is commonly asked on the campaign trail what the auditor does.
“I think that many people in our state have never even heard of the office until Janssen's most recent scandal. That is, frankly, an embarrassment. The work of an auditor is quiet and, right now, I think public trust is at a low. I want the auditor to be a position that carries respect and trust throughout the state of Nebraska,” Skinner said.