Anthony Amore, the Republican candidate for auditor, is his party's best bet to retain a sliver of statewide power — but he faces two big obstacles. His opponent, state Senator Diana DiZoglio, is a political dynamo with a proven record of challenging the Democratic establishment from the inside. And Amore's central argument — that Massachusetts voters want, and need, a Republican watchdog on Beacon Hill — hasn't been tested since the end of the Trump presidency and the Jan. 6 insurrection. Throw in the fact that Amore is the only statewide candidate endorsed by outgoing Governor Charlie Baker in the current election cycle, making his fate a test of Baker's clout, and it's fair to say the oft-overlooked auditor's race is the most interesting statewide contest of 2022.

In late September, Amore traveled to the “Big E” agricultural festival in West Springfield to meet up with Baker, who's enjoyed high marks from Massachusetts voters for nearly eight years, and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. A video created by the Amore campaign shows Amore, who's currently the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, shaking Baker’s hand, chatting with the governor and listening as Baker lauds his resume.

“He spent a long time as a federal investigator, and did a lot of work that’s very similar to the kind of work the auditor does,” Baker says in the video, referencing Amore’s past work for the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Homeland Security and the auditor's charge to determine what is and isn't working in state government. Baker goes on to tout Amore's role upgrading security at Logan Airport after 9/11, and calls Amore the best-qualified candidate for the job he's seen.

Those lines were campaign gold for Amore, who trailed DiZoglio by 18 points in one recent poll — a sizable deficit, but smaller than those faced by every other Republican running statewide. But Baker's praise didn't quite reflect the way things felt in real time. As the governor worked the room, sampling delicacies and snapping selfies, he seldom took the opportunity to bring Amore into the fold. Amore, for his part, seemed content to hover on the margins, waiting until Baker moved on to introduce himself and pitch his candidacy.

In fact, Amore can seem more comfortable on the edge of the political fray than in it. In early September, at a press conference where he was endorsed by former Governor Jane Swift, Amore kicked things off with a one-minute speech in which he noted that Swift had served as a check on Beacon Hill Democrats, and likened Swift's political philosophy to his own.

“She did not get lost in party politics,” Amore said. “Ideas, policy, and the good of the people are what mattered."

When it was Swift's turn, in contrast, she spoke for ten minutes — praising Amore and then discussing the status of women in politics as the candidate himself watched patiently. Without a reporter's question that was specifically directed Amore's way, he might not have spoken again at all.

Still, Amore can throw sharp elbows when necessary. Lately, he’s been embroiled in a very public spat with Mass. GOP chair Jim Lyons, who Amore claims is actively working to sabotage his campaign — for example, by omitting any reference to Amore’s candidacy from the “candidates” section of the Mass. Republican party website after Amore provided a campaign photo depicting him with Baker that Lyons nixed. (Recently, Amore's name was added to the site with no accompanying image.)

“It’s like this constant, concerted effort to keep me out of the game … and it’s all because of my connection to Governor Baker and my stance as a moderate,” Amore told the Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh. (Amore voted for Trump in 2020 but subsequently called for his impeachment, which puts him to the left of Lyons and much of the Mass. GOP.)

Anthony Amore
Anthony Amore (R), the Republican candidate for state auditor, greets voters at the Big E in West Springfield on September 22, 2022.
Adam Reilly GBH News

Airing this feud publicly is smart politics. It lets Amore remind people that he’s supported by Baker, while simultaneously distancing himself from a party that may be headed toward electoral irrelevance after doubling down on Trumpism. Undecided voters following the spat may conclude that Amore is the spiritual heir to Baker, who spent the past eight years prodding Beacon Hill Democrats from the center rather than the right.

The problem, for Amore, is that DiZoglio already has more of a record of taking on those same Democrats than he does. In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement, DiZoglio, then a state representative, sent shock waves through the State House by publicly accusing then-House Speaker Bob DeLeo of using nondisclosure agreements to cover up sexual harassment — a remarkable development in a body where DeLeo's authority was essentially abolute.

The charge packed an extra punch because DiZoglio said she’d experienced this herself, while working as a House aide. And DiZoglio proved to be an incredibly effective messenger. In a March 2018 interview on GBH News's Greater Boston, DiZoglio spoke about her experience with precision and poise, seemingly unfazed by the stakes of the situation and sharp pushback from DeLeo's allies.

Her skills as a political communicator have only increased since then. Recently, DiZoglio pitched her candidacy to a small crowd at Amrheins in South Boston that boasted a number of notable centrists, including Suffolk DA Kevin Hayden, Boston City Councilor Frank Baker, the Rev. Eugene Rivers, and State Senator Nick Collins, who hosted. When DiZoglio, who appears to relish the rituals of retail campaigning, stopped hugging and shaking hands and addressed the group as a whole, she cast the events that preceded her showdown with DeLeo as formative.

“I didn’t let them get rid of me or keep me quiet, and I didn’t leave state government like they told me to do,” DiZoglio said. “I instead decided to run for state representative myself — and a little over a year later, made my way back into that same chamber that dismissed me as the youngest woman serving in the House of Representatives at that time.” The applause was instant.

At Amrheins, DiZoglio didn’t directly mention her subsequent clashes with Baker, who she’s challenged on everything from COVID response to RMV dysfunction. Instead, she focused on her biography: being born to a 17-year-old single mother, growing up housing insecure, going to community college before attending Wellesley. And in her closing pitch, she outlined a vision for the auditor's job that had a distinctly populist spin.

“The state auditor is the state’s chief accountability officer,” DiZoglio said. “She is the government’s watchdog ... the person that is responsible for making sure to shine a light into these dark areas of state government, so that everyday working people can get access. That is the job that I want to do.”

Diana DiZoglio
Diana DiZoglio, the Democratic candidate for state auditor, speaks to supports at a fundraiser at Amrheins in South Boston on October 4, 2022.
Adam Reilly GBH News

Whether she gets that chance could depend, in part, on whether Baker throws his full weight as a public figure behind Amore in the campaign's final stretch — or keeps his distance, to avoid leaving office on a losing note.

How much muscle DiZoglio's surrogates flex could also prove decisive. While DiZoglio's Democratic primary opponent, former state assistant transportation secretary Chris Dempsey, was backed by a number of prominent Democratic politicians, DiZoglio had the support of several powerful unions, including the Mass. Teachers Association, the Mass. Nurses Association, and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, where she was once an employee.

Amore, it's worth noting, enjoys an advantage that DiZoglio lacks. He's run for statewide office before, trying and failing to unseat Democrat Bill Galvin as secretary of state in 2018.

At the end of his appearance with Swift, I asked Amore why, instead of making another bid for that job, he was going for auditor instead. He answered that the auditor's job would give him a better chance to push transparency in government — and that it simply fits his resume better.

“State auditor allows me to really use the skill set that I’ve acquired over the last two decades,” Amore said. “Frankly, the sort of work that the auditor does is exactly what I studied and went to graduate school for." (Amore has a master's in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.)

The response evoked Amore’s campaign as a whole: cerebral, theoretical, maybe a bit detached. We'll learn in less than a month whether that pitch resonates with voters — or whether DiZoglio is the sort of watchdog people want instead.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.