McCroskey denies making harassing phone calls. He admits he exchanged words with RTD staffers on a few occasions, but only, he says, because his requests for public information were being denied.

"They are really out to get me," McCroskey says. "They're knifing me in the back. I deny that I ever did anything to those people."

As part of her plan to win the auditor's race, Sandy Adams has purchased huge bundles of sample ballots from the Denver Election Commission. Before handing them out to voters, Adams has circled her name with red marker and added the words: "The only CPA!"

The 46-year-old Adams constantly cites her status as an accountant as the most important thing distinguishing her from the other candidates. "This job pays $84,000," she says. "Don't you think it deserves a professional?"

But Adams's professional aspirations have long been linked more closely to politics than accounting. She has been on the periphery of state and city government for more than fifteen years. In 1979 she was named a "government affairs manager" with Mountain Bell, a job that entailed lobbying the Colorado Legislature on behalf of the phone company. Adams jumped over to a management position with Public Service Company of Colorado in 1990, the year before she was elected to a four-year term on the Denver Election Commission. A longtime Republican activist, Adams last year sought her party's nomination for secretary of state but lost out to Vikki Buckley. She resigned from Public Service in January to run for auditor.

Adams has spent much of the campaign emphasizing the mundane aspects of the auditor's job--things like "fixed asset inventories" and "audit control mechanisms." Like McCroskey, she decries the politicization of the auditor's role in city government.

"With the mayor and auditor both running for mayor of Denver, how do I know who to believe?" Adams asks. "I guess it's a matter of credibility and agendas and motives."

But Adams's own credibility has been questioned during the campaign. In February the Denver Post reported that she had been improperly representing herself as a CPA when she did not actually hold an accounting license in the state. Adams had passed the CPA exam in her native New York in the mid-1970s but had never bothered to transfer the license to Colorado. State regulations require accountants to obtain a Colorado license before holding themselves out as CPAs here.

McCroskey in particular has made a stink about Adams's CPA status. He calls her claims "a disservice to the Colorado accounting profession." Adams brushes off the criticisms. Since the Post story ran, she has obtained her Colorado license. "That's no big deal," she says.

One of Adams's biggest assets may be her gender, says Denver political consultant Steve Welchert. "I give Sandy Adams lots of points for being the only woman in the race," Welchert says. Her affiliation with the Republican Party may prove a boon as well; the party has paid for a mailer urging voters to support her. Pollster Floyd Ciruli, though, points out that Republicans often find themselves in "deep trouble" running citywide in heavily Democratic Denver.

One Republican Party activist says Adams's biggest drawback may be a sheer lack of charisma. When she was angling for the secretary of state job last year, the activist points out, Adams failed to garner enough party support to even get her name on the ballot.

"I don't think she's got the political winsmanship," the activist says. "She's kind of like eating grits. Just bland."

Though he's a two-term city councilman who presumably should enjoy considerable name recognition, Dave Doering has been the ghost candidate of the auditor's race. Misfortune--some of it of his own making, some not--has cast a black cloud over his campaign.

Doering, for instance, was lucky enough to get Richard Tucker, president of Denver's Tri-State Bank, to serve as his campaign treasurer. The well-connected Tucker, Doering assumed, would prove a major fundraising asset.

But on April 8, Tucker and his wife, Pat, were in Atlanta attending a Salvation Army National Board meeting. An evening barbecue took place at the luxurious home of B. Franklin Skinner, former president and chief executive officer of the Southern Bell phone company.

During the evening, more than 100 of Skinner's guests, including Pat Tucker, crowded onto a wooden deck attached to the house. The deck collapsed, plummeting fifteen feet onto a concrete patio below. Pat Tucker had to be hospitalized for several days in Atlanta, Doering says.

The accident couldn't have come at a worse time for Doering. Richard Tucker remained in Georgia with his wife, Doering says, and the candidate was forced to cancel an important fundraiser for his campaign.

Doering says his campaign research shows he has an excellent shot at winning the auditor's race--if he can raise enough money to get his message out. Otherwise, he concedes, the strongly bankrolled Mares has a huge advantage over him. "To know the dollars are the obstacle is extremely frustrating," Doering says.

The 43-year-old Doering says he's the only one of the five candidates who understands the inner workings of Denver city government. A lawyer by training, he says his eight years representing west Denver on the city council, including a stint as council president, give him the best credentials for the auditor's job.

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