BARRE (AP) -- Longtime state Sen. Vincent Illuzzi said Wednesday that he'll rely on relationships with state officials and knowledge of state government to do an effective job if elected Vermont auditor of accounts.
Illuzzi, a 58-year-old Republican who has represented Orleans and Essex counties in the Senate since 1980, kicked off his campaign Wednesday at the Barre Granite Museum, which is housed in the building where his father worked as a granite sculptor.
But Illuzzi's emphasis on good relations with other state officials drew skepticism from the Democrat seeking the job. Doug Hoffer of Burlington said in an interview that "those relationships can raise the question of impaired objectivity, which is critical for a state auditor."
The two men are vying to replace Tom Salmon, who was elected as a Democrat in 2006 but later changed his party to Republican. Salmon said earlier this year that he would step down to seek better-paying work in the federal government or private sector.
Illuzzi kicked off his campaign before a crowd of about 50 lawmakers, lobbyists and members of the Vermont State Employees Association. It is unusual for labor groups in Vermont to support Republicans, but Illuzzi has worked closely with the union representing state workers during his years as a legislator.
The auditor's job is to review the state's annual financial statements, which are prepared by an outside accounting firm, and conduct a wide range of financial and operational reviews of state and municipal agencies.
Illuzzi said his "reviews will be guided by three questions. First, were the funds spent as directed by the General Assembly? Second, were they used as efficiently and effectively as possible? Third, are the intended beneficiaries being adequately served by the expenditures?"
He said he would try to tighten controls over state payroll and payments to outside contractors and try to rein in the costs of computers and the networks that connect them.
Hoffer said he would put particular emphasis on the state's use of outside contractors to do work that might be done more efficiently by public agencies.
He sought to contrast himself with Illuzzi by saying the lack of longtime relationships with officials throughout state government likely would make it easier for him to do tough reviews. "It's ultimately about what questions you ask and about which types of programs" in state government, he said.
Illuzzi won praise at his announcement from fellow lawmakers, including Democrats and Republicans, as someone fair and worthy of trust and also as a hard worker. A lawyer, Illuzzzi has worked in private practice and held the job of Essex County state's attorney -- the chief prosecutor in the rural county -- while serving in the Senate.
His legal career has been controversial at times. His law license was suspended twice for legal ethics violations in the 1990s, instances he attributed on Wednesday to "inexperience and immaturity."