Meet the candidates running to serve as the taxpayers’ watchdog


Courtesy of the Iowa Press YouTube channel

Democrat incumbent Rob Sand (left) and Republican candidate Todd Halbur (right) discussing their campaigns on Iowa Press.

Editors note:The Iowa State Daily attempted to contact Todd Halbur for an interview six times and received no response.

Democrat incumbent Rob Sand is looking to retain his position as state auditor and is being challenged by a former state official, Republican Todd Halbur.

According to the office of the state auditor’s website, the mission of the office is to serve as the “Taxpayers’ Watchdog” and ensure taxpayer dollars are not misused.

Sand, incumbent state auditor and Decorah, Iowa, native, is seeking re-election. The 40-year-old served as assistant attorney general from 2010 to 2017. Since being elected auditor in 2018, Sand has celebrated the creation of Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE), a program that has helped his office uncover $25 million in misspent taxpayer money, which is more in a first term than any Iowa auditor ever.

Sand is campaigning on his experience in the office and the results he achieved, as well as truth, integrity and accountability.

Halbur, a licensed realtor and school supply distribution company business owner, earned 51.1% of votes to beat Mary Ann Hanusa in the June 7 Republican primary race. Halbur spent over three years as the CFO of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages division. Halbur was fired as CFO of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division in 2018. Halbur won a wrongful termination lawsuit in early October, awarding him $1 million to repay lost wages and compensate for emotional distress.

According to his website, Halbur is campaigning on his experience in the banking and finance industry and a platform of integrity, honesty and dedication.

Halbur’s campaign raised $19,697 from July 15 to Oct. 14, $10,000 of which was contributed by Halbur himself.

Sand’s campaign received over $247,000 in contributions from July 15 to Oct. 14, including $25,000 from Sand himself.

Rob Sand

Anti-partisanship is the bottom line for Sand, who employs Democrats, Republicans and Independents in his office.

“I really am frustrated with politics as usual, and I think that we need to have a lot more of our elected officials focused on doing right rather than just serving their party,” Sand said.

Sand believes that anti-partisanship is something a state auditor should believe in. Working in the attorney general’s office, Sand prosecuted people from both parties.

Sand emphasized that having people with a law enforcement background in the office of the auditor helps prepare audits for the courtroom.

Sand earned his law degree from the University of Iowa and served in the office of Attorney General Tom Miller for seven years. Additionally, Sand has employees within his office with experience in law enforcement.

“My background as a prosecutor–I think that’s a real difference maker,” Sand said. “I’ve had four years in the office, so I know how the office works. But more importantly, I was the state’s chief public corruption prosecutor prior to that.”

Sand believes access to elected officials is important.

“I think it’s good for people to have access to their elected officials,” Sand said. “[For] City council, you can find people at the grocery store or at the baseball game. Statewide, it’s harder for people to have access to someone and harder for them to contact them, so I think by me just being present on social media gives people an ability to reach me and talk to me about things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

Sand said he believes the office has been made aware of more misuses of taxpayer money because of his presence on social media.

“People also realize ‘there is a guy we can talk to about this thing going on locally. Let’s take that to the state auditor’s office,’” Sand said. “So, I think we get more people coming to us with tips or whistleblowing because of that as well.”

Sand hosts Transparency Tuesdays on Facebook Live Tuesday afternoons to address concerns and update viewers on what his office has been up to.

The auditor’s office also started the Public Innovations and Efficiencies program in 2019, which helps organizations across the state communicate how they have reduced waste and save money. The program was adopted by the Mississippi state auditor, a Republican, in 2022.

Todd Halbur

The Daily attempted to contact Halbur for an interview six times and received no response.

According to his campaign website, “Todd is a fiscal conservative that believes in open, accountable, and limited government. He believes in the Constitution and rule of law.”

Rob Sand and Todd Halbur sat down with Iowa Press on Oct. 21 to discuss their campaigns.

During that discussion, Halbur said that his experience as the CFO of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division and 15 years in the finance and banking industry ‘more than qualifies’ him to be the next state auditor.

“I know the budget system, the finance system and the procurement systems; [I’ve] been through the audits of those agencies, and so I think I can bring that experience to the office,” Halbur said.

Halbur’s website states that he wants to recommend an upgrade of Iowa’s finance and budget systems, a decision that is ultimately up to the governor.

Halbur spoke with Iowa Press about his recent lawsuit in which he was awarded $1 million and blew the whistle on Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division Administrator Stephen Larson, who was appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“I was a taxpayer watchdog for the citizens of Iowa in that agency [the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division] when I uncovered the illegal excess profits that they were collecting on the liquor charges of over $8.2 million,” Halbur said. “When I disclosed that information, I ultimately paid that price, and they fired me wrongfully.”

Halbur, 55, grew up in Carroll, Iowa, and now lives in Clive, Iowa.