BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three Republican candidates vying to become Idaho’s next state treasurer traded barbs and defended their backgrounds Thursday during their first and only televised debate.
The position is open now that five-term incumbent Treasurer Ron Crane announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. The primary will be held May 15.
Julie Ellsworth, a former House majority caucus chair, defended not having a Master of Business Administration during the brief half-hour debate by noting she hadn’t lost money in poor investments nor had she been accused of skirting the rules.
Ellsworth holds a degree in education from Brigham Young University. Like Crane, she has no financial degrees.
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“The state treasurer’s office involves interacting with cities, schools, courts, the executive branch,” Ellsworth said, who has served a teacher, civil mediator and lobbyist. “It’s an office that interacts with a lot of different entities because of all the different services that come out of it. I’ve had that on the ground experience.”
Idaho businessman Tom Kealey responded by defending his time at Morrison Knudsen Corporation — the Boise-based construction company that build the Hoover Dam — during the mid-1990s even though he resigned soon after it won court approval for eliminating $360 million of debt.
Kealey said he was hired after poor investment decisions had been made and he helped identify solutions to save jobs and keep the business afloat.
“As soon as I’m elected, I will take a look at the books at the treasurer’s office, but also verify,” Kealey, corporate executive who co-owns the Chicago Connection pizza chain. “I trust that the books are good, but I will verify.”
Ada County Treasurer Vicky McIntyre downplayed recent accusations of misusing a public credit card, countering she had helped grow the county’s investment portfolio over the past seven years.
McIntyre was asked by Ada County’s three commissioners to turn over her county credit card Tuesday. She has refused, explaining that the issue is part of a long-standing feud she’s had with the commissioners.
“I’m not so sure that I always agree with the policies, I believe that the policies should be affable to the best interests of the people,” McIntyre said, while explaining why she once ignored county policies to buy a work computer in order save money for the county.
“If you don’t agree with the policy, have the policy changed before you do your own thing; you are required to follow the law,” Ellsworth said.
No Democratic candidates are running for the open position, meaning whoever wins the GOP primary will more than likely become the state’s next treasurer for the next four years.
The treasurer serves as Idaho’s chief financial officer and manages the state’s investments. The treasurer is also in charge of investing idle state funds and acts as the custodian for workers’ compensation insurance securities and the Endowment Public School Income Fund.
Typically, the Idaho treasurer’s race flies under the radar compared to the rest of statewide positions. Unlike other low-profile statewide positions such as controller and secretary of state, the treasurer doesn’t sit on the State Land Board which manages 2.5 million acres of Idaho land.