September 21, 2022

An All-Democratic State Government Needs a Republican Watchdog

With Charlie Baker’s departure in January, Beacon Hill will become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

At about 11 p.m. on Sept. 6, the Republican candidate for state auditor, Anthony Amore, issued a press release. It congratulated state Senator Diana DiZoglio on defeating Chris Dempsey in the Democratic primary election for auditor and welcomed her to the general election campaign.

In an amused tweet, my Globe colleague Samantha Gross noted that Amore had congratulated DiZoglio even before the race had been called. Amore genially replied: “Because we’re really good at data analysis. Key part of being Auditor.”

Brief though it was, that Twitter exchange captured a few salient points about Amore. One is that he has a knack for scrutinizing data and drawing accurate conclusions. Another is that he wears his expertise lightly and has an affable sense of humor. And a third is that he can spot opportunity — in this case, the opportunity to highlight his professional experience and its relevance to the job he’s running for — even in venues as unlikely as a lighthearted late-night tweet.

The post of state auditor doesn’t require candidates to have, as Amore does, decades of experience in detecting and dissecting fraud, upgrading security, and rehabilitating troubled programs in the public and private sector. (Amore has been the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum since 2005 and before that oversaw the massive revamping of Logan Airport’s procedures following 9/11). But it would be hard to deny that the know-how gained in the course of such a career is great preparation to be the state’s chief accountability officer. DiZoglio is a professional politician who has been elected to the Legislatures four times. She doesn’t seem to have any particular qualifications for scrutinizing the finances, performance, and transparency of state agencies and contractors, though it’s certainly possible she could learn on the job.

Amore would bring an additional credential to the state auditor’s office, one DiZoglio cannot match no matter how quick a study she is: He’s a Republican. Specifically, a moderate, clear-headed, reality-based Republican in the model of Charlie Baker, Bill Weld, and Paul Cellucci — a Republican uninterested in Trumpian conspiracy theories yet very interested in efficient government. Amore is the only statewide candidate Baker has endorsed this year. The governor raves about him. “If you were to look up ‘state auditor’ in the dictionary,” Baker told voters in Quincy last month, “there would be a picture of this guy. … You’re just not going to find somebody who’s better qualified.”

For 24 of the past 32 years, Massachusetts voters have seen to it that the overwhelming Democratic majority in the Legislature has been balanced to some degree by a sensible Republican in the governor’s office. But with Baker’s departure in January, Beacon Hill will become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general, secretary of state, Senate, and the House of Representatives — all of them will be under ironclad Democratic control. Unfettered one-party domination is never a good idea, no matter which party holds the reins of power. It is in voters’ best interest that, at a minimum, the state’s official watchdog come from a different party.

You don’t have to be conservative or Republican to see the good sense in that. “If accountability is the centerpiece of what the auditor does,” asked Jim Braude, a staunch progressive, on his Greater Boston TV program, “wouldn’t it be better to [elect a Republican] so that there is a counterbalance to the overwhelming control of Democrats?” As auditor, a Republican like Amore would pose no threat to the Democrats’ political hegemony. But his presence would help ensure that even in ultra-blue Massachusetts, state government operates more effectively.

Already, Amore has shown that he can influence Democrats’ approach for the better.

Since launching his campaign in March, Amore has said that his first order of business would be to audit the auditor’s office, which keeps failing to meet its responsibility to regularly review every state agency. Last month, DiZoglio began echoing Amore, saying she too would start by auditing the auditors. Since May, Amore has repeatedly argued that the auditor’s office is badly underfunded compared to its counterparts in similar states. In recent weeks, DiZoglio has said that she would also “advocate for robust funding” for the auditor’s office.

If Amore can have such a positive impact as a candidate, just imagine the good he could do as auditor. As Baker leaves and Massachusetts veers to the left, Beacon Hill needs to know that it’s being watched. Who better to fill that role than a levelheaded Republican in the auditor’s office?

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