Gary Jones challenges Auditor & Inspector Steve Burrage
By Patrick B. McGuigan
Gary Jones, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican party, entered the race for state Auditor & Inspector late today. He plans to challenge appointed incumbent Steve Burrage.
Jones’ filing came almost literally at the last minute. He was still talking with some supporters and reporters after 2010 candidate filing closed on the 5th floor of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
As the filing process neared completion at 5 p.m., Burrage, who had filed Monday, came to the state Capitol to discuss the race with reporters and to talk to Jones. The two men shook hands and engaged in a brief exchange of views, lasting about 90 seconds. They shook hands again at the end of that encounter.
Burrage was appointed to the post by Governor Brad Henry, a fellow Democrat, to complete the term of former Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan, now in prison after a corruption conviction.
McMahan narrowly defeated Jones in 2006. McMahan’s campaign was marred by wrongdoing and linked to the theft of a campaign trailer that Jones had transported all around the Sooner State.
After filing on Monday, Burrage told CapitolBeatOK, “I’m running for a full term because of the job we’ve done and still need to do. We’ve cleaned up the office and made administrative and other reforms. We have saved the taxpayers $1 million.”
He continued, “I am positioned to be able to educate the people on the importance of this office and of professional auditing procedures. I want to continue to attack waste, fraud and abuse issues.”
Burrage concluded, “My experiences prepared me for this job. I’ve spent 30 years as a banker, auditor and professional man. This job is gratifying and important and I’d like to continue what I’m doing.”
Burrage has undertaken several major investigative audits of Oklahoma public school districts.
The most significant pending investigation involves millions of dollars in the Broken Arrow system.
Today, Jones told CapitolBeatOK, “I ran twice with the chips stacked against me. This year there will be a more equal playing field. He has done some things to improve the office, but on the other hand it would have been hard not to do some things to improve the office. I know I have the tenaciousness to go after wrongdoing in the state.”
Jones was asked why he would leave the GOP chairman’s post in what looks like a promising year for his party. He replied, “There are a number of people who can do a good job as the party chairman. I talked to my wife, my daughter and son and they encouraged me to run.
“This is an important position, and this is an important year. I believe I am uniquely qualified to do this job.”