The Down Ballot Races: Allison Ball and Derek Petteys for auditor
Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023
This is the first in a series of down-ballot candidate breakdowns the Daily News will be publishing each day before the primary election on Tuesday, May 16.
Republican voters will choose between primary candidates for state auditor, agricultural commissioner, treasurer and secretary of state. Democratic voters also have a primary race for their party’s agricultural commissioner nominee.
The winners of these primaries will move on to the general election in November as their party’s representative.
Candidates who are the only member of their party to run in the election, including the Democratic and Republican candidates for attorney general, have already qualified for the November election.
The Daily News interviewed all the down-ballot candidates to hear their pitches. First up is the Republican primary for auditor, a face-off between Allison Ball and Derek Petteys. The winner of the primary will face Democratic Kimberley Reeder in the general election.
Ball is currently serving her second term as Kentucky’s treasurer. At the time she was elected, she became the youngest woman in the United States to be elected to statewide office. Before she was treasurer, Ball spent four years as a prosecutor and two years as a bankruptcy attorney.
Petteys has 27 years of experience in the private sector as project manager for Flooring Source. He’s MBA-educated, holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration and is affiliated with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. In 2022, he lost the Republican primary against Rep. Andy Barr for the U.S. House of Representatives district 6 seat.
In Kentucky, the state auditor is in charge of auditing, or closely reviewing, all state government agency accounts and financial transactions. They act as internal accountants and watchdogs, detecting and investigating potential fraud.
Why do you believe you should be the next auditor?
Petteys: “I think as an outsider with no connection to the workings of government or the bureaucracy, I can do this job without fear or favor.”
Ball: “I know how to investigate and know how to hold people accountable. I know how to serve as a watchdog, and I’m ready to go on day one. … “ I’ve been that watchdog of taxpayer dollars on the front end as treasurer, and I think it’s prepared me well to continue to be a watchdog in a different sense, this time on the back end of our taxpayer dollars.”
How do you distinguish yourself from your primary opponent?
Petteys said that unlike Ball, he is not a “career politician.” He said he believes that the office of the auditor should be as separate from the political system as possible, and that as current treasurer, Ball’s campaign for auditor is “an incredible conflict of interest.”
He added that his business experience in management and finance sets him apart.
Ball said her track record as a conservative, small-government “watchdog” during her time as treasurer is what distinguishes her. She responded to the criticism that she is using this office as a jumping off point for an eventual run for Kentucky governor by saying that she considered running for governor this round, but opted for auditor instead after praying on it.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me,” she said. “What I do feel like is that I’m prepared, I’m ready to do this job right now.”
What are two or three of your key platform goals?
Petteys’ first goal is to analyze state contracts to ensure that out-of-state companies are not involved in Kentucky politics or state management.
He also said he wants to fight against “political agendas” in schools, like discussions on Critical Race Theory, which holds that systemic racism is part of American society. CRT is an academic and legal concept that is not part of the curriculum in K-12 Kentucky schools.
“I want to closely examine the spending of local school districts to ensure that political agendas aren’t pursued instead of improving student outcomes,” Petteys said.
Ball said one of her top priorities is fighting against ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing, which is the consideration of environmental, social and governance factors alongside financial factors when deciding how to invest.
“I’ve always believed that investments should be about getting good returns. That’s what people expect when you have a pension,” Ball said. “But there’s been a move in the last few years to change investments and use it instead as leverage to push certain societal outcomes and they’re all ideological – they’re all progressive and left wing.”
Her second priority is making sure she is actually performing the duties of the job, like holding people accountable when they mismanage money.
Third, as treasurer, Ball launched a transparency website, and said she would find similar ways to increase transparency in the auditor role.
What would you change about current auditor Mike Harmon’s track record, and what would you continue?
Petteys said he’s noticed that the auditor’s office payroll seems to make up a disproportionate amount of its annual budget. He would look into the departmental payroll to determine if there are any operational inefficiencies.
He added that Harmon is a “very good communicator” who sends out a lot of press releases to keep people informed.
“I would like to continue that and improve upon it,” he said. “I’d like to elevate the role of auditor to be more visible than it currently is. I would like to personally, regularly visit all 120 counties and many different agencies to ensure that services are being performed.”
Ball would continue “following the data” and seeing the role as neutral, like she said Harmon has done.
I think that guidance, that it’s nonpartisan, that you just do the job the way it’s supposed to be done, that needs to continue and I’m happy to follow through on what Harmon started in that role,” she said.
She would build upon Harmon’s record by creating more relationships with local governments to help out with their finances on the front end to reduce problems on the back end when they need to be reviewed.