Send a real pro: Republican Maher has the edge for auditor general

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This is the first in a series of endorsement editorials on contested races in the Nov. 6 election. They will culminate in a recap of the Post-Gazette's recommendations on Sunday, Nov. 4.

It will be easy for Pennsylvania voters to select a new auditor general who has integrity, inside knowledge of government and the experience to push for better ways to use taxpayers' money. That's because the description fits both major party candidates -- Democrat Eugene DePasquale of York and Republican John Maher of Upper St. Clair.

Choosing between the two good alternatives on the November ballot could be more difficult. Betsy Summers, a Libertarian from Wilkes-Barre, is also running.

Mr. DePasquale, grandson of a former Pittsburgh councilman of the same name, grew up in the city, graduating from Central Catholic High School and the College of Wooster in Ohio. He met his wife while a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, and love took him to York, where she was a teacher. Mr. DePasquale, 41, became the city's economic development director and attended law school at night. He next worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection and then ran for the Legislature after the 2005 pay raise debacle.

The newly elected lawmaker's first act was to post his legislative expenses online, a move that angered many of his colleagues but a decision that cemented Mr. DePasquale's credentials among the electorate. If he becomes auditor general, he says he would order a review of all water protection programs related to Marcellus Shale drilling and focus on education and economic development spending.

Mr. Maher, 53, also has ably served in the Legislature, representing the 40th House District since his 1997 election. It is his work outside of government, however, that gives him the edge over Mr. DePasquale.

Mr. Maher is an auditor. Although that professional certification is not a requirement to run for auditor general -- and it's not training that recent occupants have brought to the office -- it is expertise that provides a tie-breaker in the contest between this year's qualified candidates.

The firm he founded, Maher Duessel, specializes in auditing government agencies and nonprofits, which gives Mr. Maher specific and relevant experience. Although Mr. Maher left the firm in 2004, he has maintained his professional license and still teaches occasionally. He believes that updating the state's procedures can save time that auditors then can use to train school districts, nonprofits and other entities to operate more efficiently.

The Post-Gazette endorses John Maher because, as he has said, "Pennsylvania deserves an auditor general who knows how to audit."

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