Marcellus Shale, financial instruction and having the right background for the job are issues important to the office of auditor general, say two of the candidates on this fall's ballot.
State Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny County, said his credentials are straightforward: He is a certified public accountant and knows how to audit, and he said he has a history as a lawmaker at helping to open up government to public scrutiny and shedding light on lobbyists.
The state needs an auditor general who knows how to hunt down waste as only an experienced auditor can, said Maher, who also touted his successes in the private sector.
But the office is not just about numbers, said the Democratic candidate, state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York County.
It's also about auditing the performance of state programs relative to what the law prescribes they do, and his background as a lawyer would be important to carrying out that function, DePasquale said.
Betsy Summers, a Libertarian candidate from Luzerne County, could not be reached for comment.
DePasquale said that, right out of the gate, he would order a review of all of the state's water-protection programs to make sure that it is doing all that it can and should to protect drinking water in the age of Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling.
"Whether you are pro- or anti-drilling, that is really irrelevant to this discussion," he said. "We have to make sure the state is protecting drinking water."
DePasquale also said he would look at job-creation programs based in the state Department of Community and Economic Development to determine which ones are working and which ones are not.
Maher said that Marcellus Shale issues are a priority to him. He said he would make sure processes at the state level that are designed to send up red flags in real time are functioning correctly.
Maher was a founder of the Pennsylvania accounting firm Maher Duessel CPAs and was elected to the state House of Representatives for the first time in a special election in 1997.
"I'm a bona fide businessman who put my personal financial goals aside to become a public servant," Maher said.
Maher said that, to him, the job of the state's auditor general is to be the fiscal watchdog, but its role also is as a coach.
So one of his primary initiatives would be to transform the office into being a vehicle to help school districts and municipalities that receive state money by bringing wisdom into audits instead of just delivering reports, he said.
Another way the office could help is through advising on possible back-office consolidations, such as for administrative functions, that would help school districts save money but still allow separate districts to keep their identities, Maher said.
DePasquale was director of economic development for York and attended night classes to get his law degree from Widener University School of Law before joining Gov. Ed Rendell's administration in 2003 to help grow renewable energy business in Pennsylvania.
He won his first election to the state House in 2006 and touts his record there as one of bipartisanship. As with Maher, DePasquale said the primary role of auditor general is as a fiscal watchdog and to recommend solutions when problems are uncovered.
Candidates for state auditor general
Eugene DePasquale, Democrat: The 41-year-old York County resident is a member of the state House of Representatives; he was first elected to that post in 2006. He served as an economic development official in York and in the administration of Gov. Ed Rendell at the state Department of Environmental Protection. He is married with two children.
John Maher, Republican: The 53-year-old Allegheny County resident has served in the state House of Representatives since being elected in a special election in 1997. He is a certified public accountant and was a founder of the firm Maher Duessel CPAs. Maher is single.
Betsy Summers, Libertarian.