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Auditor Julie Blaha wins second term in close race

GOP challenger Ryan Wilson conceded the race to Blaha Wednesday afternoon.

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Julie Blaha
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Auditor Julie Blaha has been elected to a second term in office after defeating GOP challenger Ryan Wilson at the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, unofficial results showed just 8,432 votes separating Blaha from Wilson — 47.47% to 47.13% of the more than 2.4 million votes in the race. Blaha issued a statement declaring victory early Wednesday morning as initial vote counts appeared to lean in her favor. Wilson conceded the race to Blaha on Wednesday afternoon.

Blaha is a former middle school math teacher from Anoka and former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO of Minnesota. Wilson is founder and former CEO of an auditing firm that focuses on clinical trials.

Democratic Farmer Labor incumbent Blaha, who was elected in 2018, holds the constitutional office tasked with monitoring roughly $60 billion dollars in taxes and spending by more than 4,800 local governments across the state of Minnesota. The office monitors local use of more than $21 billion in federal funds — a process known as the statewide single audit.

The nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor handles agencies and other state programs.

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In addition to overseeing local public finances, the auditor also sits on several state-level councils, including the Executive Council, Rural Finance Authority and the Minnesota Housing Authority. As a member of the State Board of Investment, the auditor has sway over how the state invests more than $130 billion in state funds.

A unique issue that emerged in this year’s race was a debate over the auditor’s role on the State Board of Investment, a panel that oversees $130 billion in assets, including state pension funds. Wilson criticized Blaha for her support of considering the potential effects of climate change on investment returns, something that other Republicans have started turning into a campaign issue in other states. Blaha said it's a financial decision rather than a political one, pointing out that Wall Street investment firms also account for climate risk in their investment decisions.

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Republican state auditor candidate Ryan Wilson

Polling mostly had the two candidates neck-and-neck in the race, though Wilson pulled ahead 44% 39% in a Nov. 1 poll from KSTP/SurveyUSA where 14% remained undecided.

Minnesota pays the state auditor a yearly salary of $108,485.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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