Former gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano plans to run for state auditor as a Republican.
Feliciano said Tuesday he is in the process of gathering the required signatures and plans to submit his petition to the Secretary of State’s office by the Thursday deadline. Auditor Doug Hoffer, a Democrat and Progressive, has already filed for re-election.
As a business consultant, Feliciano says he has the necessary background to help state government improve its operations and finances by finding improvements. He said he decided to seek the office after people told him his background was well-suited for the position.
“My whole background is about change and driving change and understanding what the change factors are in government,” he said.
Feliciano said he plans to bring more “visibility” to the office by focusing its efforts on the state’s “strategic performance” and “financial performance.”
“I really think the auditor position really needs to transition into a more proactive role in the bills that are coming up to identify the risks that are possible in the bills,” he said.
In an interview, Feliciano emphasized that he thinks the auditor's role should be to ensure there are standards in place so that policies can be measured for success.
Feliciano says the state’s elected auditor should have a background in health care and information technology. He said his work as a business consultant has given him deep experience in both by working with major health insurance companies. He said he has helped develop and deploy automated systems to adjudicate insurance claims.
"IT is here forever and it is here to stay and it’s a way that government can scale itself and keep costs down. I believe the auditor needs to have an IT background,” he said. “If we’re talking about health care, health care, health care, I have an extraordinary background unparalleled by anyone in the state.”
Hoffer, first elected in 2012, has won praise across the political spectrum for his performance as auditor. Feliciano said he plans to begin work on a strategy to campaign effectively against Hoffer.
“We’re going to sit down and actually strategize that to really understand. It’s going to be really about what the future role of the auditor ought to be,” he said. “The auditor has to be a role that’s more geared to identifying management risks proactively.”
One example Feliciano gave was recent legislative debate around distracted driving.
"I started asking the question: 'Okay so what does handheld electronic device mean? Is that an e-cigarette? Is that a woman's compact mirror? Those are the kind of things that sound trivial but have a significant impact on the law and how it's implemented and how we measure and identify the success of the programs."
Feliciano ran for governor in 2014 as a Libertarian; he also ran a write-in campaign in an attempt to be a split Libertarian/Republican nominee, but was handily defeated by Scott Milne for the GOP nomination. In the general election, Feliciano won about 4 percent of the vote in a very close race between Gov. Peter Shumlin and Milne.
Since losing the 2014 gubernatorial election Feliciano said he has been “working quite diligently with the Republican party” and has served as the treasurer for the Essex Town Republican Committee.
“That’s the best way I saw to go forward. They have a bigger machine. My platform, many people said, was very Republican in nature to begin with,” he said. I think most Republicans in Vermont have that Libertarian streak in them.”
Feliciano said the switch was less a shift in his politics than it was a practical consideration.
"I think this state is in a financial crisis," he said, "both financially as well as in the health care world. And as I thought this through, I thought 'How could I help be the most impactful?' My intention was never to be a thorn in anyone's side. So I decided that if I can provide good feedback and input to the Republican party and they were willing to accept it, that would be a place for me to have a bigger impact, and not just stand on the sidelines and complain, but actively participate."
Vermont Republican Party Chairman Dave Sunderland welcomed Feliciano into the race Tuesday in a statement.
“Dan’s professional background make [sic] him an ideal candidate for this position. Vermont Republicans are excited to work with him through November,” Sunderland said in a news release. “With strong candidates up and down the ticket, we will be well positioned to balance Montpelier and once again make Vermont an affordable place to live. Dan is a great addition to our team.”
A version of this story was originally published by the Vermont Press Bureau. This story has been updated to reflect Feliciano's interview with VPR's Taylor Dobbs.