HARRISBURG -- Republican Auditor General candidate Tim DeFoor said that his top priority if elected will be to make sure that federal stimulus assistance, flowing across the state in the months since the pandemic began, has been helping the people intended.

“My first thing is going to look at is: Are those funds going where they’re supposed to go,” DeFoor said in a meeting with editors from CNHI Newspapers in Pennsylvania. It was the second in a series of sessions with candidates seeking statewide office in November.

DeFoor said the economic devastation from the pandemic is obvious and that makes ensuring assistance is getting where it’s needed is especially important.

He said that he’d recently been to a Harrisburg area mall and noticed many vacancies.

“Half the mall was empty,” he said. “A lot of those were small businesses. Mom and pop businesses.”

On top of that, there remain serious questions about how effective and accurate the state unemployment compensation system has been in distributing jobless benefits, he said.

“I had a friend reach out to me in a panic because they’d gotten an $11,500 unemployment check they hadn’t applied for,” he said. “And you’ve got people who applied for unemployment in April and haven’t gotten a dime.”

DeFoor is seeking a post that’s been held almost exclusively by Democrats for decades.

Only one Republican -- Barbara Hafer, who served from 1989 to 1997 -- has held this post in the last 60 years.

DeFoor said that while he’s been a lifelong Republican and is running on the Republican ticket, he considers the auditor general post to be “apolitical.”

The auditor general post is open because incumbent Eugene DePasquale couldn’t run for re-election due to a two-term term limit for the position. DePasquale is now running for Congress.

DeFoor has been Dauphin County controller since 2015. He was unopposed in the Republican Primary and will face Democratic candidate Nina Ahmad in November.

Whoever wins the election, the result will be historic, as it will be the first time a person of color has won statewide office in Pennsylvania. DeFoor is Black and his opponent, Ahmad, was born in Bangladesh.

“That shows you that Pennsylvanians are looking past race, they’re looking past gender. They are looking for the best candidate. That’s huge,” DeFoor said.

DeFoor said that if elected, he would use the auditor general’s office to tackle social justice issues.

“When you talk about social justice, definitely, there is a need for reform,” he said. “And I’m happy to see that.”

But social justice should also include ensuring that minority business people are getting fair access to government programs and the opportunity to compete for state business, he said.

As an example, he noted that prior to serving as county controller, he’d worked in the Office of Inspector General, and among his duties was verifying that business owners who sought access to programs intended to help minorities were, in fact, minorities. He would also like to focus attention on minority business owners and said the state should do more to help minority, women and veteran-owned investment management firms get access to the state’s investment business, he said.

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