This year, as most people focus on the mid-term elections for governor, senators (US and state) and representatives (US and state), there are other important races that will appear on the September and November ballots. One is the race for state auditor.
After serving since 2011, current auditor Suzanne Bump chose not to seek reelection this fall. The first female to ever hold that position in the state, Bump “identified more than $1.3B worth of inefficiencies, misspending and fraud,” according to the auditor’s page on the Massachusetts state website, www.mass.gov.
The site notes how the auditor “leads a 225-person workforce of auditors, fraud investigators and researchers to improve government accountability and build trust in government,” adding the work they’ve done led to changes that “have both a human and financial impact within programs across the breadth of state and local government, including Medicaid, child welfare, public safety, public benefits, and education.”
To fill her role, three people stepped up to run including a local Winchester resident. Running as the lone Republican in the race, Anthony Amore recently received the endorsement of Governor Charlie Baker.
“As an independent and experienced watchdog, Anthony will be able to keep the checks and balances on Beacon Hill and help preserve and continue the work the Baker-Polito Administration has done over the last seven years,” Baker wrote in an email to his supporters, his first such endorsement of the campaign season.
When asked about receiving the endorsement, Amore said via phone last week, “it’s an honor to get his endorsement and it tells me my message is the right one.”
The Republican candidate is fairly new to Winchester, moving to the town with his partner and her eight-year old daughter last summer after spending two decades in Swampscott. He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island.
Amore said he came to Winchester for the town’s excellent school system, its safety and the warm community. While he loved living in Swampscott, Amore now enjoys Winchester’s downtown area, which he said he frequents often.
He originally entered the race for several reasons, one of which involved continuing the independent spirit started by the Baker-Polito Administration.
“One of my goals is to protect the legacy of Baker and (Lieutenant Governor Karyn) Polito as they leave office. I don’t want to see (the work) undone when he leaves office.”
Amore also said he chose to run after seeing “the record inflation crush working families.” He wants to make sure Massachusetts residents’ tax dollars are spent wisely.
The Republican candidate started out as an English major in college before moving on to the Harvard Kennedy School where he majored in Public Administration. Since graduating, he’s spent 30 years working in audits and inspections, including 16 years working at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston as the director of security.
As a senior Homeland Security official, he oversaw more than 1,200 federal employees. Amore also served on the leadership team that rebuilt security at Logan Airport following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and later, at the museum at which the biggest property theft in world history occurred.
The Winchester resident said he’s been taught to follow the facts and protect good work.
“We can’t let good work, good government be undone,” he stressed, adding how the state must continue to invest in the MBTA and public housing.
Amore, running in an uncontested primary race, will face either of two Democratic opponents in November: State Senator Diana DiZoglio, from Methuen, or former MassDOT Assistant Secretary Chris Dempsey, from Brookline. Dempsey told WGBH back in February he wants to use the office as a “robust platform for advocacy for better, more efficient, equitable government.”
DiZoglio, meanwhile, said she’s running to “make sure that working families like yours get access to and accountability from our state leaders.”
Both candidates gave Bump a high rating for her time in office. Amore, on the other hand, was more critical of the current state auditor. In fact, he said one of the first things he would do if he won the election would be to audit the auditor. He promised to do an internal audit right off the bat to see why, in his opinion, Bump never met the required numbers of audits per year.
He said he would bring in independent, outside auditors to perform this task.
About his two potential Democratic opponents, Amore said one of them wanted to audit the state legislature, which he called impermissible.
“I’ve done this kind of work (and) they haven’t,” he said about his experience versus what he called their lack of experience.
The Republican candidate jumped into the race a little after his two Democratic rivals, though with no primary opponent, he has plenty of time to make up the difference. He said he decided to get involved when he saw Bump announce she wouldn’t seek reelection. He knew an open seat meant he had a better chance.
“The state system is geared toward protecting incumbents,” he said when asked about the notion there are three parties in Massachusetts: Democrat, Republican and Incumbent.
He called Massachusetts a big state where some parts don’t get the attention they deserve. He said to win this race, you must pay attention to the entire state. He said he’s done a lot of traveling already, from the south shore to Quincy, and he’ll next visit central Massachusetts, all in an effort to educate people on what the auditor does.
His theme will focus on the record inflation and how it could continue growing.
“Our tax dollars become more precious as inflation grows,” he noted, “and we need to make sure they are spent wisely.”
The Winchester resident said he backed a lot of Gov. Baker’s ideas including the tax holiday, which generally takes place over a weekend in August. In fact, he supports a two-month holiday tax break.
“The state is awash in money,” he suggested as a reason why a tax break period would make sense for Massachusetts residents.
When asked about repealing the gas tax, at least for the time being (while gas prices remain near or above $4 in the state), he didn’t specifically endorse the plan, but did say, “any time you can return money to people it’s good.”
He also mentioned how the House recently rejected the governor’s (and other Republicans’) gas tax break proposal, which some Democratic members called a “stunt” or “gimmick” and said could hurt the state’s ability to complete transportation projects and make future projects more costly. It could also affect the state’s bond rating, according to House Democrats.
Without a primary opponent, Amore’s candidacy could take a back seat to the two Democrats. He called it a double-edged sword, because on one hand he’s guaranteed to make it to November, but on the other, his two opponents will most likely soak up all the attention. Therefore, the Republican said he’ll just concentrate on getting out his message to voters and focus solely on his own campaign.
And one of his messages is how he believes he’s the only candidate with experience. Amore also mentioned transparency, calling himself a big proponent of it. Going forward, if elected, one of his goals involves looking at college and university tuition.
He mentioned colleges and universities raised costs by 2.5 percent while he’d rather see them reduced by that same margin. He asked where this money is going. However, though he believes in an affordable education, he doesn’t favor canceling student debt. He said there’s no such thing as canceling debt, adding someone would have to pay for it.
Amore also mentioned the fairly new Cannabis Control Commission, wondering why Bump never audited the committee, especially after a hack occurred to a company that performs background checks on everyone from marijuana entrepreneurs to state employees, according to the Boston Globe. This incident occurred back in November.
The paper went on to note the company, Creative Services, performed 1,982 background checks on licensees and workers associated with a licensed pot business from November 2018 to last fall. A further 75 Cannabis Control Commission staffers were also affected, a spokeswoman said. The commission paid just under $70,000 to the company for services so far this fiscal year (as of last month).
In general, although Massachusetts has a reputation for high taxes, Amore believed the state was well run (thanks, in his opinion, to Gov. Baker). He stressed, though, the governor can’t do it alone and the state needs a “financial watchdog on Beacon Hill.”
Amore hopes to be that watchdog.