LITTLE ROCK — An employee of the state auditor’s office, a state legislator and a software developer are vying to succeed state Auditor Charlie Daniels, who is retiring.

LITTLE ROCK — An employee of the state auditor’s office, a state legislator and a software developer are vying to succeed state Auditor Charlie Daniels, who is retiring.

Democrat Regina Stewart Hampton, 57, of Little Rock is an unclaimed property specialist at the auditor’s office, where she has worked for 13 years, and is owner of Hampton Enterprise. She is married to the Rev. Reginald J. Hampton Sr.

Republican state Rep. Andrea Lea, 57, of Russellville is in her third two-year term in the state House. She is a former Pope County justice of the peace and Russellville City Council member. She and her husband, Phillip, have three children.

Libertarian Brian Leach, 43, of Fort Smith is a software developer and former business owner. He has three children.

Candidates were asked three questions and allowed up to 150 words for each answer. Each responded via email.

What in your background qualifies you to be state auditor?

Hampton: For the past 13 years I have been a part of the state auditor team. Over these 13 years I have experienced nearly every aspect of the office. Experience in the auditor’s office matters. I am the only candidate in this race that has experience in the auditor’s office. I am proud that during my tenure in the office, we have not been beset by any scandal or irregularity. Full transparency is a critical element of my success. I have been instrumental in assuring the citizens of Arkansas that their state payroll checks have been on time and accurate. I am proud that we have also been able to refund to tax payers over $18 million last year alone in the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt. I also believe that the employees of the auditor’s office have been critical to our overall success.

Lea: As a former justice of the peace, city council member and now in my sixth year serving in the Arkansas General Assembly, I have built a comprehensive understanding not only of state and local government, but establishing a trust and commitment to the people of Arkansas. Leadership and experience matter, and I want to put my experience to work and serve Arkansans as state auditor the same way I have served them in the Arkansas General Assembly these past six years. It is important to have an auditor who can work to faithfully, respectfully and ethically execute the duties of the office, working with all Arkansans and other elected officials.

Leach: As an MBA graduate of the University of Arkansas I have a strong background in how businesses should function and I understand the finances involved in running a large organization.

If you are elected, what plans do you have for the office?

Hampton: The auditor’s office is a great running machine for the most part. I am very proud to be a part of it. I believe there are some technological improvements we can make to increase efficiency for our customers, the taxpayer. I believe everything we do must be oriented to better serve the taxpayer. Along with better service to the taxpayer I am committed to full transparency in all our actions. Everything we do must be completed with the commitment that we are getting the best result for every tax dollar we use. Where cuts can occur to save money, we will do it. Eventually I would like to get more college interns in the auditor’s office and create some curriculum that our public schools can use to teach about financial management. We will identify qualified educators who will work with us to make this happen.

Lea: I am committed to pursuing the latest technological advances to effectively perform the duties of the office and make it as user-friendly and transparent to the people of Arkansas as possible. Transparency should be the foundation of any public office. I will work with the Association of Arkansas Counties and with the local elected county officials to make sure we are providing topnotch continuing education. I will expand on the work Charlie Daniels has done to promote the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt. Using my experience of serving on the Public Retirement Committee, I will also work to make sure the public retirement funds are kept safe for the future.

Leach: Government presence has spun out of control at every level. Too often the solution is perceived as throwing more money at a problem that the government probably has no control over anyway. As Arkansas state auditor I would like to oversee fiscal responsibility for the tax dollars that are taken from the taxpayers every year. Daily we read and observe in our lives the inefficiencies of government. I would like to see efficiency in state spending to the highest degree possible.

What makes you the best candidate for the office?

Hampton: EXPERIENCE MATTERS!! As the only candidate in this race with any actual experience in the auditor’s office I am the most qualified. I have served the public for 13 years with full transparency. My morals and ethics are beyond reproach. I am not a politician, nor do I plan to become one. I am a servant leader. The last three state auditors have all served with distinction and all three endorse my candidacy. I am grateful for their support. As the wife of a Methodist minister, I believe my faith and my values are more closely aligned with the average Arkansan. My faith makes me and it is what will guide my leadership as the next state auditor for the state of Arkansas.

Lea: I have acquired a comprehensive view of government and have been consistent in creating better and more efficient government. As chair of State Agencies Committee, co-chair of Personnel Committee and member of Budget Committee, I initiated smart reductions to agency budgets that corrected personnel and payroll issues. As a legislator, I was part of the team that successfully led legislation to shore up our state’s retirement funds. And as auditor, I will continue to work to protect the viability of our state’s retirement funds. Nearly two dozen of the bills I sponsored in the past general session were approved by my peers and signed into law by Gov. (Mike) Beebe. From tax cuts to preventing voter misconduct to improving the working conditions for county elected officials throughout the state, my record shows I have worked to make state government more efficient during my service in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Leach: I don’t support wasteful programs and ballooning budgets. I believe if there is a tax surplus then the government took too much money from citizens and that money should be returned. We all work very hard for our money. As auditor I should be able to find areas where money is being wasted. I believe that government officials at every level should ask themselves, "would this decision provide more freedom to the citizens?" After all, government is by the people and for the people.