JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's state auditor represents a stark contrast to the increasing trend of political campaigns to restrict and control media access.
While many candidates shy from unscripted comments that can trip up a campaign, Democrat Susan Montee seems to revel in the unprepared moment.
In a 2009 Christmas Greetings YouTube video that features Montee sitting next to a cozy fireplace, she jokes about the fake cat on her lap and repeatedly rejects efforts to put a Santa hat on her head.
"I'm not wearing this. With this hair?" Montee said holding up the crimson hat. "I'm not wearing the hat!"
She also poked fun at Christmas sweaters and the fake snow.
While the YouTube video certainly was staged, it did reflect a degree of candor for which Montee has gained a reputation in the Capitol. That off-the-cuff attitude was apparent when she was asked about her favorite audit during her four years as Missouri auditor.
"I hate to be this way, but the scandals are the big ones," she said.
There is, however, a serious side to Montee. A Democrat, she is the first auditor in Missouri history to be both a licensed attorney and a certified public accountant.
Montee said her professional background and her understanding of the auditor's office makes her the best candidate.
"We really are a CPA firm," Montee said. "It comes down to experience to run the office."
Montee earned her bachelor's degree in accounting at Drury University, graduating in 1985. She later earned her juris doctorate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who has been missing in action since 1966.
Montee is a divorced mother of three children, Andy, Austin and Amanda. She moved to Jefferson City from St. Joseph after winning the state auditor post in 2006.
The incumbent started her political career in 1999 when she won a seat on the St. Joseph City Council. Montee served concurrently as Buchanan County auditor for two years. She gave up her council seat in 2003 but continued to work as the county auditor.
She has said on multiple occasions that she never had long-term plans of running for political office.
Montee said her approach in the auditor campaign four years ago was to pay attention to rural areas of Missouri and not target only the urban areas. She said she wanted to talk more about the job and the office, not the state's political landscape.
Montee said that if you go into areas that are voting a certain party and talk to them about how your office is separate from everything else, your message is much better received.
"They will vote for a person and not a party," said Montee.