Incumbent auditor trails primary challenger in fundraising

August 17, 2022 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware’s incumbent state auditor has raised only about half as much in campaign contributions this year as her Democratic primary challenger has, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.

Auditor Kathy McGuiness, who in July became the first statewide elected official in Delaware to be convicted on criminal charges while in office, reported raising $24,190 since January in her campaign for re-election.

McGuiness’ primary opponent, Lydia York, who has been endorsed by the Delaware Democratic Party, reported raising $47,220 in financial contributions since establishing a campaign committee in late May. She also loaned her campaign $10,100 and reported a $5,000 “in-kind” contribution from the Democratic State Committee for access to a voter database.

McGuiness, who was elected auditor in 2018, started this year with $61,362.43 in her campaign account. She reported spending $14,189.06, leaving her with a balance of $71,363.37.

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York reported spending $27,273.13, not including a $5,000 “in-kind expenditure” for access to the Democratic committee’s database, finishing the reporting period that ended Sunday with a balance of $30,046.87.

The primary election is Sept. 13. The winner will face Republican Janice Lorrah in November.

McGuiness, who is responsible as auditor for rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse, was indicted in October on felony counts of theft and witness intimidation, and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, conflict of interest and noncompliance with procurement laws.

A jury acquitted her in July on the felony charges but convicted her of the misdemeanor offenses, each of which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison but a presumptive sentence of probation. The judge is currently weighing post-trial motions by McGuiness’ attorney, who is seeking a judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial.

McGuiness was convicted of conflict of interest in the hiring of her daughter in 2020. Prosecutors alleged that Saylar McGuiness, 20, was hired even as other part-time workers in the auditor’s office left because of a lack of work early in the coronavirus pandemic, and was then allowed special privileges not available to other “casual-seasonal” workers. McGuiness also was convicted of structuring payments under a no-bid communications services contract with a consulting firm she had used in a 2016 campaign for lieutenant governor to avoid having to get them approved by the state Division of Accounting. The structuring and conflict of interest convictions laid the foundation for jurors to also find McGuiness guilty of official misconduct.

McGuiness continues to maintain her innocence and to campaign for re-election. Among those donating to her campaign this year was House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, a longtime political ally and fellow Rehoboth Beach resident. Schwartzkopf in late April donated $1,200 to McGuiness, the maximum individual contribution for a statewide candidate in an election period.

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McGuiness, in turn, donated $500 each to state Sen. Darius Brown and Rep. Stephanie Bolden, both Wilmington Democrats, a week later. She officially filed for re-election the next day.

Brown was the only Democrat to join Senate Republicans last month in voting against a resolution passed by majority Democrats seeking to remove McGuiness from office. Schwartzkopf criticized the Senate resolution as meaningless “political theater” and said he had no intention of calling his chamber into special session to consider it.