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Utah auditor race has barbs flying

Candidates tout own credentials while questioning each other’s qualifications.

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Transparent » "I don’t think anyone has a better record of transparency in the Legislature than I do," he said, pointing to his push for a public meetings-notice website, a financial transparency website and online posting of lawmakers’ conflict of interest statements.

Of HB477, he said, "Sometimes you’ve got to cut across the grain to get people’s attention so you can bring resolution."

At a glance

State auditor race

Republican John Dougall

Served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives.

Currently House vice chairman of the budget-overseeing Executive Appropriations Committee.

Has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, and an MBA.

Works as a high-tech consultant.

Democrat Mark Sage

Former “program manager” for the U.S. Air Force, overseeing a variety of aircraft and weapons systems.

Licensed private investigator, with experience investigating fraud cases.

Currently a producer for Generation Next Media, an independent film company.

Former FBI clerk, and served in Navy for six years.

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Even though the law was repealed, said Dougall, it led to a working group that drafted and helped pass replacement of open-records legislation that was not controversial.

Returning some of Sage’s volleys, Dougall says Sage, as a film producer, doesn’t have the financial background needed as auditor. When told he also managed some Air Force programs, he said, "How much was that? A few million dollars or something like that? This is a $13 billion budget at the state level."

Sage says he actually managed programs "worth hundreds of millions," such as the A-10 "Warthog" aircraft and a series of radar stations along the Arctic and some border areas. He said he built teams that won awards for efficient management and saving money.

"As a program manager, I was responsible for the planning, budgeting, management, execution and reporting of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars," he said. The former Hill Air Force Base manager adds that it is similar to how a state auditor needs "to build a team of diverse skills and abilities" to look for efficiency and savings in state programs. Sage is also a licensed private investigator and has experience investigating fraud cases.

Beyond the barbs, the race has a softer, even humorous side as candidates seek to show how each may be the best at penny-pinching for taxpayers.

"Frugal Dougall," as he calls himself in ads, touts that he grew up drinking powdered milk as the oldest in a family of 11 children, and bought his own children a turtle as a pet "because it eats less." He’s proud that he paid off his mortgage in less than 15 years. He notes he only recently threw away a pair of shoes that he bought 24 years earlier, after they could no longer be repaired.

Meanwhile, Sage, after retiring as a civilian Air Force worker, has been handling the financial side of Generation Next Media, an independent film company.

He said he has looked for ways to save money — including moving much of its work from California to the Beehive State, where the cost of living and labor is cheaper.

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A passionate archer, including coaching the sport at Weber State, Sage said, "I like to keep things on target. … That’s what an auditor is supposed to do."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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