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Kathleen McGuiness, the Delaware auditor, left, arrived at court with her daughter Saylar McGuiness and Steve Wood, an attorney, in Dover in June. The auditor was convicted of misdemeanors.
Delaware has just one contested primary for a statewide office on the ballot on Tuesday: the Democratic race for auditor of accounts, an unheralded position whose holder is responsible for supervising the state’s use of taxpayer money. But the campaign is not lacking in drama.
Kathleen K. McGuiness, the incumbent, is facing a primary challenge from Lydia York, a lawyer and former corporate accountant. Ms. York received the state Democratic Party’s endorsement this summer after Ms. McGuiness was convicted of misdemeanors related to hiring her daughter and awarding a contract to a consulting firm that had worked on one of her past political campaigns. The winner will face Janice Lorrah, a Republican.
Unlike felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions do not disqualify people from holding public office in Delaware, according to a Delaware Supreme Court ruling issued last year in a case unrelated to Ms. McGuiness.
Ms. McGuiness, who denies wrongdoing and plans to appeal her conviction to the Delaware Supreme Court after she is sentenced, is now in the remarkable position of running for re-election to an office in which a jury found she committed crimes. Democrats in the State Legislature have urged her to resign, but she has refused, arguing that the charges against her are politically motivated. Last month, in response to motions from her lawyers, a judge threw out one of three misdemeanor convictions but upheld the other two and denied her request for a new trial.
Ms. McGuiness’s website tells voters that, as auditor, she has “identified $86 million in annual efficiency savings, government overspending and potential revenue sources” and saved taxpayers $500,000 by conducting audits in house rather than through contractors.
Her endorsements page, however, hints at her loss of support: It still advertises the endorsements she received in 2018.
ImageLydia York received the Delaware Democratic Party’s endorsement this summer.Credit…Lydia York for Auditor
Ms. York is running on a platform of “accountability and transparency” and has emphasized the auditor’s responsibility for overseeing education funding.
“In particular, this office is charged with auditing the school districts in this state,” she said in a recent interview with Technical.ly, a technology news organization. “And that charge in particular is an area where the state auditor hasn’t been as effective as I think they ought to be.”
It is unusual for the Delaware Democratic Party to back a primary challenger over an incumbent, a fact the party acknowledged in announcing its endorsement of Ms. York in late July.
“We saw Ms. York’s candidacy as an opportunity to restore the auditor’s office to its intended function and do away with the political theater that has kept the incumbent at center stage for all the wrong reasons,” the state party chair, Betsy Maron, said in a statement at the time.