The race for Franklin County auditor is one we initially didn’t think we’d weigh in on.
That’s because Republican incumbent Matt Beaton had no challenger listed on the ballot in the August primary election.
However, an opponent emerged when Democrat Diana Izaguirre launched a write-in campaign and won enough votes to move on to the general election.
That’s an impressive accomplishment.
We recognize Izaguirre is a serious candidate and we applaud her gumption, but we are recommending Beaton keep his job.
The county auditor is in charge of a hodge-podge of important services that include managing elections, voter registration, marriage licenses, vehicle licenses, public records and accounts for the county.
Beaton, though, also embraces the auditing role that his job title suggests.
He keeps an eye out for inefficiencies, non-compliance issues and possible fraud within the county, and he submits any concerns to the state auditor for further investigation.
Findings are publicized on a blog Beaton maintains on the county auditor’s website.
He acknowledges other county auditors around the state don’t typically focus on the auditing role like he does, but he feels it is important to ensure government transparency.
However, Izaguirre said Beaton’s focus on auditing other county departments adds an unmandated dimension to the job, and he is stepping out of bounds and causing strained relationships with colleagues.
She is concerned the day-to-day operations of the auditor’s office are being minimized by Beaton, and she would set other priorities – like improving voter turnout, for example.
That’s a subject area where she shines. She managed the Franklin County elections department for 25 years and worked under Beaton.
She left in 2017 to take a deputy assessor-clerk-elections manager job in San Mateo County in California and spent a year there, but said she missed family in the Tri-Cities and returned home.
Izaguirre moved back last June. Filing week for the 2018 election cycle was in May, but state law allows residents who are registered to vote in their district to run for elections as write-ins.
She said she wanted to continue to serve in elections, and decided to mount a write-in campaign when she realized Beaton was running unopposed.
Izaguirre received 315 of the 8,575 votes cast in the Aug. 7 primary – or 3.67 percent – which is well above the 1 percent needed to get on the ballot in the general election.
To her credit, she alerted Beaton she was going to run and the two appear to be on good terms.
Beaton said he is glad Izaguirre is “doing this,” and that contested races provide a “safety valve” for the community. He seems to appreciate that challengers hold incumbent candidates accountable.
We understand Izaguirre’s concern that Beaton’s watchdog approach to his job could be distracting.
But we don’t see where he is mishandling his department. Last year, Franklin County moved to a new voting tabulation system that Beaton called a “no-brainer” because it cost more to maintain the old system than to replace it.
In July, he was invited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to be part of a national discussion in Washington, D.C., which addressed ways to improve voting access to people who speak languages other than English.
Izaguirre said she would get along well with other county leaders and employees, and that she could bring some fresh ideas to the department after spending time in California.
She is likeable and qualified, and she would do a good job.
But we appreciate that Beaton is focused on government transparency, and we aren’t convinced that his other duties are suffering because of that.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Matt Beaton for Franklin County Auditor.