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Indiana state auditor candidates cite increased transparency, independent voices as key priorities

Three separate screenshots of Zoom calls with candidates for Indiana State Auditor. On the left is Republican Tera Klutz, a White woman with dark hair wearing a black top. In the center is ZeNai Brooks, a Black woman with dark hair and red highlights, wearing glasses and a black top. On the right is Libertarian John Schick, a White man who is bald and wears glasses, wearing a blue shirt and a necktie.
Screenshot of Zoom call
Candidates for Indiana state auditor in the 2022 election are, from left to right, incumbent Republican Tera Klutz, Democrat ZeNai Brooks and Libertarian John Schick.

Candidates for Indiana state auditor in the 2022 election are incumbent Republican Tera Klutz, Democrat ZeNai Brooks and Libertarian John Schick.

Klutz said she’s running for a second term to get the chance to finish the work she’s been doing in the statewide office.

Klutz was appointed to the position in 2017 and elected to her first full term four years ago. She’s a certified public accountant and former Allen County auditor.

She said a key initiative she’s focused on is transparency – making more public spending data available to Hoosiers in an easy-to-understand format, through the state’s transparency portal.

“So, instead of just doing a huge data dump, we were able to get a lot of searchable databases in there – by state vendor, you can find out what state employees get paid, you can search contracts now,” Klutz said.

The Republican also said she created a dedicated team in the office that helps people find and access the information they're looking for. And going forward, she wants to help get state lawmakers more familiar with the transparency portal.

"So many times, at the table in one of the hearings, somebody asks for financial information and the answer is always 'We'll get back to you,'" Klutz said. "Wouldn't it be so great if you could just pull it up and look and ... have that information at your fingertips?"

Democratic candidate ZeNai Brooks also named transparency as a key priority. She said she would serve as an “accountability check” to Republican supermajorities, if elected.

Brooks is a certified public accountant and finance director for manufacturing giant Cummins’ corporate responsibility work. She’s also worked for years with various community organizations – a perspective she said would be vital in the auditor’s office.

“Do we need to rethink, you know, how we’re spending the state’s money and who we’re doing business with?" Brooks said. "And then, adding transparency for regular people, for business owners to understand how those dollars are really affecting the community.”

Libertarian John Schick said, as a third party candidate, he's the only one who can bring true independence to the role.

“You know, maybe more independent analysis of repercussions of laws and mandates that are made by the policymaking roles in the legislature and the governor,” Schick said.

Schick, a management consultant who also ran for the auditor’s office as a Libertarian in 2014 and 2018, pitches himself as a difference choice for voters frustrated with the two major parties.

He said he believes people are increasingly motivated to vote by things they don’t like. And he said Libertarians are much less likely to institute “anything that you don’t like.”

“If anything, we’re going to try to roll back past policies that people currently don’t like and get back to basics of what the government should be doing,” Schick said.

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The state auditor is, essentially, an administrative position. And Klutz said if given another term, she wants to finish modernizing the payroll system for state employees.

“It’s the boring stuff of my job, but the stuff that matters the most," Klutz said. "Our number one asset for the state is our state employees.”

The job is not a policymaking one. But as a pastor’s wife who’s active in her church, Brooks said she would also approach the job as an advocate.

“Loving people and taking care of the sick and taking care of the poor and representing for the underserved and underprivileged," Brooks said. "So, if we are going to be real people of faith, why is our spending not reflective of that?”

If the Republican wins another term, it's also possible the title itself could change. Klutz wants to amend the Indiana Constitution to call the office something like state comptroller instead of state auditor – because the office doesn't audit state government.

"Because I do spend a lot of my time explaining what I do before somebody can have an engaging conversation about how I can maybe be of service to them or help them," Klutz said.

Democrats haven't won an election to the auditor's office since 1982.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.