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Our View / Endorsement: Geek out over Blaha, unifying power of data

Julie Blaha, the DFL candidate for Minnesota state auditor, can get a little geeked out over data. She can get a bit jazzed up about numbers. And for the greatest reason.

Julie Blaha"If you can just have that one true thing to start with, you can get through any really thorny problem," Blaha said in an interview this fall with the News Tribune Editorial Board. "Once you have the numbers, you can start talking ideas, ... to peel away the politics, to peel away the divisiveness. ... We actually can come together."

Voters on Nov. 6 can embrace the unifying power of hard data by picking Blaha as Minnesota state auditor.

"Our next auditor is going to need to be a leader who knows how to handle sticky situations ... and who truly believes that when good people get good information they make good decisions," Blaha said.

The Ramsey resident's experience and record show she can be that leader. She was treasurer and chief financial officer for the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the state federation of labor, which represents more than 1,000 local unions. She was the first woman to hold the position and only the second woman to serve as an executive for the state AFL-CIO.

She also was a middle-school math teacher, a member of the economic development authority in Ramsey, on Gov. Mark Dayton's school finance task forces, and president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota. In her teachers union role she lobbied in St. Paul and helped pass legislation to stop bullying.

Her opponent on Nov. 6 has excellent credentials as well. Republican Pam Myhra of Burnsville is a certified public accountant and was the audit manager for an international public accounting firm. She also served in the Minnesota House from 2011 through 2014 where she was chief author of measures to make government more transparent.

"Everybody cares about how their tax dollars are being used," Myhra said in a separate interview. "They want to know that they are being used effectively and for their intended purposes."

Both candidates support copper-nickel mining, the issue that polarized current state Auditor Rebecca Otto. In her role on the State Executive Council, Otto spoke against the mining. She ran for governor this year instead of seeking reelection.

The state auditor ought not be so political, said Blaha.

"You are accountable to voters. You get partisan, Minnesotans will toss you out," Blaha said. "The most important part of the auditor's position is trust. You are about trust, and if they think you're putting your thumb on the scale, they won't trust you."

In a competitive race with two excellent candidates, Blaha's decisiveness, enthusiasm, dynamic leadership, and desire for the job set her apart. So does her belief in the unifying power of reliable data — perhaps not so geeky, after all, in the face of deep divides.

"People want to be able to trust something," Blaha said. "In every leadership position I've had, where we have made the most progress is when the issues were seemingly the most difficult. You can't run away from (conflict). You have to run into it."

About this endorsement

This News Tribune endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the newspaper's Editorial Board. The board's members are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken, citizen representative Julene Boe and citizen representative Denise Wise.