The Clarion Ledger Editorial Board has endorsed Democrat challenger Joce Pritchett over two term State Auditor Stacey Pickering, citing Pickering’s many well-known bouts with ethical and still potentially criminal charges.
Pritchett, who is openly gay, filed a lawsuit in 2014 challenging Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage. Her election to statewide office is seen by the promoters of same-sex marriage as a way to “normalize” the lifestyle in a socially conservative state.
The CL Editorial Board admitted in the endorsement that “Pritchett would have much to learn about the scope of authority the auditor’s office has. While she presented a lot of good plans during her editorial board meeting, Pritchett also showed her inexperience with ideas about how she could use her office to bring more transparency and accountability to things over which the auditor has little to no direct influence.”
They also listed many of the grievances they have with respect to Pickering:
“Mississippians should have absolute trust in their state auditor, the person charged with ensuring taxpayer money is being spent efficiently, legally — and, we believe — ethically.
“Sadly, incumbent Auditor Stacey Pickering has lost the trust of many across the state. Even his supporters privately admit that he has hurt himself with the way he has managed his department’s state contracts and his own campaign finances. A federal investigation continues into both areas.
“To his credit, Pickering finally sat down with our editorial board and answered any and all questions about those issues. He had refused to do so during the primary. He gave credible answers to many questions surrounding suspicious campaign finance filings, and he reiterated that nothing he has done illegal. He also denied having any contact with the FBI in relation to an investigation into his office or his campaign.
“Nevertheless, Pickering’s record is not something worthy of a state auditor. Our own investigation into no-bid contracts showed his office was the worst in the state when it came to questionable contracts. Former office workers were transferred to contractual employment while they worked congressional campaigns. Former campaign workers were given nearly $100,000 contracts to serve as ambassadors of the state auditor, the contract actually listing speaking at civic clubs as part of the contract.
“Furthermore, we have seen some of the worst corruption by state leaders while Pickering has served as state auditor. He likes to boast of recovering more than $21 million for state taxpayers, but he has failed when it came to rooting out major corruption in the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Department of Marine Resources. It’s been the FBI, not Pickering’s office, that has initiated and led these investigations. Furthermore, it took a judge to force him to release public documents in the DMR case.
“For those reasons, we cannot endorse Pickering for a second term.”