Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who gained a high profile as the state’s top election official but must step down because of term limits, said Tuesday he is running for state auditor.

The Democrat from Old Town served four consecutive two-year terms as secretary of state.

If elected by the Legislature, he would replace outgoing auditor Pola Buckley, who has served two consecutive four-year terms and is also term limited.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap addresses the media outside a polling location at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Election Day. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

State lawmakers will vote on both Buckley’s and Dunlap’s successors when they convene in Augusta on Dec. 2.

As the state’s top election official, Dunlap presided over the recent election that featured record turnout with about half the voters casting absentee ballots to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

He said he was approached by several people over the summer who suggested he run for the auditor’s post, but he shrugged it off until Buckley also suggested he run.

“It’s an important job,” Dunlap said in an interview Tuesday,” even though it doesn’t have the same glitz and glam as secretary of state and attorney general. And frankly, no offense, but not having six media interviews a day will be a nice relief.”

Dunlap was speaking by phone from his home because his Augusta office was closed for cleaning after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Dunlap said he was feeling well, but he and others were to be tested for the virus later Tuesday because they were close contacts of the infected employee.

Buckley’s state salary in 2019 was $118,326 while Dunlap as secretary of state was paid $110,600 in 2019, according to Maine Open Checkbook, the state’s online financial disclosure portal.

The secretary of state is one of the state’s three “constitutional officers” – the others are attorney general and state treasurer. These offices are spelled out in the Maine Constitution and are elected by the Maine House and Senate.

The state auditor office was created by law in 1883 to review the state’s financial statements and federal expenditures – essentially auditing state government spending.

The law requires the auditor be a licensed certified public accountant or a college graduate with at least six years of experience as an accountant or auditor, with no less than five years of auditing experience and at least four years of supervisory experience. The law also allows the Legislature to elect a person who is not qualified so long as they become qualified within nine months.

Dunlap said he is not currently a certified public accountant but would become one and test for licensure within the time required. So far, he is the only announced candidate for the auditor’s post. The Legislature’s Republican and Democratic caucuses will select their candidates when they meet Dec. 1.

Democrats hold 80 seats in the 151-seat House and 22 seats in the 35-seat Senate, so they are expected to control the selection of candidates to replace both Buckley and Dunlap.

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