Guest Opinion: Vying for state auditor

Published 7:52 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By John Hood

RALEIGH — The former state auditor of North Carolina, Beth Wood, never lost an election. She clinched the Democratic primary for the elected office in 2008, defeated a Republican incumbent that fall, and then won reelection in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

Wood never lost an election — but she did lose her job, thanks to a series of disastrous decisions that began with a hit-and-run incident in December 2022 and ended with her resignation from the post a year later. Jessica Holmes, an attorney who formerly chaired the Wake County Board of Commissioners, was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to replace Wood, and will stand for election this fall.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

Six Republicans are vying for the chance to displace Holmes from the office of state auditor, one of the 10 elected executives who form North Carolina’s Council of State. The state auditor conducts financial and performance audits of state and local agencies and departments. Although not necessarily a high-profile office, it’s one of the most important in state government — and is best held by an independent-minded leader, not a partisan loyalist or glad-hander eager for higher office.

Charles Dingee is a small-business owner and activist who previously chaired the Wake County Young Republicans and the 13th District GOP. He says his commitment to fiscal responsibility, openness, and public service make him the strongest candidate for state auditor. Dingee pledges to “work tirelessly to ensure that government agencies are transparent in their operations, and that all financial transactions are open to public scrutiny.”

A former member of the Greensboro City Council, Jim Kee has worked as a farmer, real-estate developer, sales manager and nonprofit director. “Community service has always been a passion for me,” Kee says. “With two terms of city council experience, I understand what it takes to find solutions, how important it is to work together and navigate the complicated governmental agencies to help get things done.”

Another candidate in the race is Anthony Wayne Street, who goes by Tony. A Wilmington native, Street ran for the same office four years ago, winning the GOP nomination despite media coverage of a series of criminal charges against Street, including stalking. He lost the 2020 general election to Wood by about 94,000 votes.

Jeff Tarte is a former IBM sales executive and management consultant with extensive experience in data analytics and forensic investigative work. A former mayor of Cornelius, Tarte served three terms in the North Carolina Senate and has served on numerous boards and commissions. “We all recognize there is an endless supply of waste in state government,” Tarte says. “Under my leadership, utilizing pragmatic data forensic approaches in conjunction with advanced technologies, I will help mitigate the problems of waste, fraud, and abuse in our state agencies.”

A fifth candidate for the nomination is Dave Boliek. A former prosecutor and longtime attorney in Fayetteville, Boliek serves on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and previously chaired that board as well as the board of the Southeast Regional Area Health Education Center. In a recent interview with the Raleigh News & Observer, Boliek said there were “too many administrators in our public schools, universities and state agencies” and argued there were “many places where services and management are redundant and can be consolidated.”

The final Republican candidate is Jack Clark, a certified public accountant and budget staffer at the North Carolina General Assembly. He formerly held auditing positions at the private companies Grant Thornton and Parexel. “I will set a tone that our department wants to ensure taxpayer money is being used effectively and efficiently,” Clark told the News & Observer. “Candidates with too many personal ties, or too strong a personal agenda, won’t be best suited to find these unfair transactions.”

Dingee, Kee, Tarte, Boliek and Clark maintain campaign websites where you can read more about their backgrounds, endorsements, and positions on issues pertinent to the office of state auditor. Early voting for North Carolina’s March primaries begins on February 15.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member.