After two uneventful candidate forums this afternoon at the Republican State Committee meeting, which featured the unopposed candidates for attorney general and treasurer, the pair of GOPers facing off for auditor general trade some fiery blows.
While they also had a few snippets on policy (including remarks from Rep. John Maher that the auditor general also should be reviewing the state's accounting of shale wells), much of the debate was a series of verbal barbs.
Frank Pinto, a former college professor and president of the state's Association of Community Bankers, labeled the Upper St. Clair legislator as a insider with political baggage, including votes in support of the 2005 pay-raise and the 2001 pension increase.
Maher defended those votes, noting that he never accepted the pay-raise and that he didn't take reimbursements for mileage or other expenses until several years ago.
He volleyed his own attack back at Mr. Pinto, describing him as lobbying in the state Capitol halls "since I was in high school." But much of Maher's remarks focused on his background as a certified public accountant, expressing an enthusiasm for the field. (At least two references to "I love to audit. I love auditing.")
"I've done this in the real world," he said. "There are public officials who went to jail based on the audits I've done. If you want to cut waste, you've got to know how to find waste."
Mr. Pinto replied that he would be better equipped to search the legislative and judicial accounts for waste because of not having served in the Legislature.
"I already assured the voters that I am independent," Pinto said, before criticizing Maher for receiving Gov. Tom Corbett's endorsement. "The people are screaming out for accountability."
The Republican State Committee members will meet tomorrow morning to vote on whether to endorse a candidate in the auditor general's race, as well as in the GOP contest for U.S. Senate.
Tonight's highlight will be dinner remarks from former Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty and then a forum featuring six of the U.S. Senate contenders.