The sole debate between the major-party candidates for state auditor, Democratic state Senator Diana DiZoglio and Republican Anthony Amore, focused little on auditing.
The debate, taped Thursday morning, was dominated by a back-and-forth of accusations and counterattacks by both candidates with only brief discussion of what either candidate hopes to bring to the position being vacated by incumbent Democrat Suzanne Bump.
At various points, each candidate accused the other of being “desperate,” DiZoglio accused Amore of sexism, Amore accused DiZoglio of lying, DiZoglio pulled out a printed screenshot of what she said was one of Amore’s old tweets, and Amore said DiZoglio’s claims were a sign of weakness. You get the idea.
The moderator, WBZ political analyst Jon Keller could barely get a word in edgewise.
The debate will air in full at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday on CBS News Boston and an edited version will appear at 8:30 a.m. Sunday on “Keller @ Large” on WBZ-TV. It will be available in full from Sunday on CBSBoston.com.
The debate started cordially, with Amore, a Winchester resident and the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, saying he has the experience conducting audits and leading large private and governmental organizations that is required of an auditor.
DiZoglio, a Methuen resident who was elected as a state representative in 2012 and then as a state senator in 2018, outlined her up-by-the-bootstraps personal story and pledged to use the auditor’s office to benefit working families.
Amore then argued that his resume is better suited to the auditor’s post than DiZoglio’s, whose career in public service has mostly been spent in the State House.
“I think it’s excellent background for a legislator, but it’s not a background for auditing,” he said.
DiZoglio cut back that she spent 10 years in the legislature going over the annual budget “line by line.”
DiZoglio outlined her desire to expand the visibility of the auditor beyond being just a watchdog. “With that of course is a bully pulpit, a statewide bully pulpit, to be able to advocate for the changes your office identifies,” she said.
Amore agreed the office could be used for advocacy but said that 30 percent of state agencies are not currently being audited, as they should be under state law, due to the auditor’s office’s small budget. He said he wants to set that straight before adding to the role.
Amore said that states with budgets similar to Massachusetts’ have double the funding for the auditor’s office. He said that his campaign had pushed for the state Legislature to double the budget last cycle, but the lawmakers, including DiZoglio, had not done that.
Both candidates pledged that they would be politically independent, and the debate’s many attacks stemmed from the candidates’ efforts to paint the other as a partisan extremist.
About a third of the way through the debate, DiZoglio accused Amore of deleting “to the tune of 10,000 tweets,” some of which she said featured him supporting former president Donald Trump. She pulled out a printed screenshot of what she said was a tweet in which Amore defended Donald Trump’s sexual harassment.
“That’s just a complete falsehood,” Amore said. Amore said he uses a function on Twitter that automatically deletes all his tweets after a few months and that in the retweet DiZoglio mentioned, the author was saying that not all sexual harassment is a criminal offense.
DiZoglio repeated her claims about the tweets several times during the debate, leading a visibly frustrated Amore to say: “It’s weak. It’s beneath you.”
Amore touted the fact he is the only statewide candidate endorsed by popular and moderate Republican Governor Charlie Baker. “The Trump wing of my party attacks me on a daily basis,” Amore said.
DiZoglio countered that Amore has said he voted for Trump in 2020. “The reality is, Mr. Amore, that Governor Baker would not, as a moderate, vote for Donald Trump, and he hasn’t voted for Donald Trump,” she said.
Amore called DiZoglio a “zealot” who is too cozy with politicians and organizations she would have to audit, pointing to her campaign events with fellow Democratic candidates for statewide office and donations from labor unions.
When Amore continued to press DiZoglio on her qualifications, she accused him of sexism.
“Mr. Amore, I’m used to men like you up on Beacon Hill trying to dismiss and discredit the work of women working up on Beacon Hill who absolutely have the experience and the capabilities to do our job,” she said.
At one point in the second half of the debate as both candidates talked over each other, an exasperated Keller, sitting between them on a couch, could be heard in the background with a plaintive plea: “Equal time now, c’mon.”