Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial board: Zack Space for state auditor

Zack Space knows the Donald Trump voter. Many cast ballots for him when he twice ran successfully for the U.S. House starting in 2006. He represented a large swath of Southeast Ohio before losing his re-election bid in 2010, a casualty of the tea party surge here and elsewhere.

What the Dover Democrat and attorney gets about the Trump voter, and many other Ohioans is the distrust and loss of faith in public institutions. He aims to respond in ways that restore confidence, and he wants to do so through the office of state auditor.

We recommend the election of Zack Space on Nov. 6.

Space grasps well the job, reviewing how public offices spend money and keeping watch on how they perform. He calls for making upgrades, for instance, auditing state agencies with more frequency. He proposes helping the smallest governments pay for audits and compliance, an expense that can be a substantial burden.

What is refreshing about his candidacy is the ambition he sees for the office. He would press the envelope in a good way.

How? Space wants to use the tools of the office to examine such things as the fallout from for-profit management firms running charter schools. He would look at how productively Medicaid has addressed the opioid epidemic. He proposes assessing the consequences for counties, cities and townships from the state slashing the Local Government Fund, even try to get a read on trade agreements and manufacturing jobs.

His opponent, state Rep. Keith Faber, a former Ohio Senate president, warns that Space would “weaponize” the office. Actually, this more expansive view is about improving performance, accountability and transparency. It is about understanding what comes from decisions at the Statehouse.

After Congress, Space worked at Vorys Advisors, representing, among other entities, libraries and companies engaging communities in the Utica shale play. (He left last fall to campaign.) What he has carried with him is a reputation for integrity and working across party lines. He sees how gerrymandering has added to our divisions. He would make a helpful addition to the process for redrawing legislative and congressional districts, the auditor with a defined role.

For his part, Faber knows well the workings of state government. He is a certified public accountant and attorney. He proposes similar improvements to the auditor’s office. He also carries considerable baggage, and it is not flattering.

Count the Celina Republican among those lawmakers slow in their response to the scandalous Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the now collapsed online charter school that received roughly $1 billion in public funds. The money flowed while the school faltered academically and its founder became rich.

Eventually, lawmakers enacted helpful changes when Faber led the Senate. Yet, in the main, he resisted urgency, as political money from ECOT donors went to him and others in the party.

More, Faber long has operated as a sharp partisan, for instance, using his muscle to alter setback requirements and stall the wind industry in Ohio. The contrast hardly could be more distinct in this race for auditor. In Zack Space, Ohioans get something better than business as usual.

Read more