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Delaware’s Auditor Is Running for Re-election Despite a Criminal Conviction

Delaware has only one contested primary for a state-wide agency on the ballot on Tuesday: the Democratic Race for Accounts Payable, an unannounced position whose holder is responsible for overseeing the state’s use of taxpayers’ money. But the campaign is not lacking in drama.

Kathleen K. McGuiness, the incumbent, faces a primary challenge from Lydia York, a lawyer and former corporate accountant. Ms. York received Democratic Party endorsement from the state this summer after Ms. McGuiness was convicted of offenses related to hiring her daughter and awarding a contract to a consultancy that had worked on one of her previous political campaigns. The winner will face Janice Lorrah, a Republican.

Unlike felony convictions, convictions do not disqualify people from holding public office in Delaware, according to a Delaware Supreme Court ruling. issued last year in a case unrelated to Ms. McGuiness.

Ms. McGuiness, who has denied her wrongdoing and plans to appeal her conviction to the Delaware Supreme Court after being convicted, is now in the remarkable position of running for reelection in an office where a jury found that she had committed crimes. Democrats in the state legislature have urged her to resign, but she has declined, arguing the charges against her are politically motivated. Last month, in response to motions from her lawyers, a judge threw out one of three felony convictions but maintained the other two and refused her request for a new trial.

The website of Mrs. McGuiness tells voters that, as an auditor, she has identified “$86 million in annual efficiency savings, government overspending and potential revenue streams” and saved taxpayers $500,000 by conducting internal audits rather than through contractors.

However, her recommendations page points to her loss of support: it still advertises the recommendations she received in 2018.

Credit…Lydia York for auditor

Ms. York operates on a platform of “accountability and transparency” and has emphasized the auditor’s responsibility for overseeing education funding.

“This agency is specifically charged with monitoring the school districts in this state,” she said in a statement a recent interview with, a technology news organization. “And that indictment in particular is one area where the state auditor hasn’t been as effective as I think they should be.”

It is unusual for the Democratic Party of Delaware to support a primary challenger over an incumbent party, a fact the party acknowledged when it announced its endorsement of Ms. York in late July.

“We saw Ms. York’s candidacy as an opportunity to return the accounting department to its intended function and abolish the political theater that has kept the incumbent party at the center for all the wrong reasons,” the state party’s chairman said. Betsy Maron, in a statement at the time.