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How to Run for Comptroller

2 min read
Comptroller Politics Team · Apr 24, 2024

Comptrollers are an important part of local governance, and running for comptroller is a great way to make a positive impact on your community. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of a comptroller’s role, plus tips on how to launch an effective campaign for office.

What Is a Comptroller?

Comptrollers are officials who are in charge of a country, state, or local area’s financial operations. Comptrollers (also called controllers) can serve at various levels of government. For example, the comptroller general is the head of the United States’ Government Accountability Office. This individual serves at the federal level of government. Nineteen states elect state-level controllers. Some states also elect or appoint comptrollers at the county or city level.

The office of comptroller is elected in some states, and is an appointed position in other states. The specific titles of these positions can also vary between states.

Comptrollers are in charge of the government’s financial systems, making sure that all the accounting activities are carried out in an ethical manner. The comptroller’s job is to oversee the government’s financial activities, including auditing, reporting, budgeting, and managing revenue. The comptroller is also responsible for ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Overall, the comptroller’s goal is to ensure that accountability and integrity remain central to the government’s financial activities.

States that Elect and Appoint Comptrollers

The following states elect state comptrollers or controllers:

  • California 

  • Connecticut

  • Idaho

  • Illinois

  • Maryland

  • Nevada

  • New York

  • South Carolina

  • Texas

The duties of each of these state comptrollers differ slightly. For example, the Illinois Comptroller’s duties involve managing the state funds and ensuring the payment of funds held by the state. The Illinois Comptroller is also responsible for providing residents with updated fiscal information. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts oversees the collection of different taxes and maintains and estimates the state’s financial records.

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In seven states, the state comptroller or controller is appointed by the governor. This is the case in the following states:

  • Alaska

  • Massachusetts

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • North Carolina

  • Virginia

Three other states appoint the state comptroller or controller in different ways:

  • The Alabama Comptroller is appointed by the state finance director.

  • The Colorado Controller is appointed by the executive director of the Department of Personnel and Administration.

  • The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury is appointed by the state legislature.

Comptrollers in Local Government

In addition to the comptroller general and state-level comptrollers, the office of comptroller also operates at the county and local levels.

Here are two notable examples:

The New York City Comptroller

New York City elects a comptroller at the city level. The New York City Comptroller, also known as the city’s Chief Financial Officer, leads a staff of approximately 800 people and has a range of duties. These include:

  • Conducting financial audits of all New York City agencies

  • Overseeing the city’s budget and fiscal condition

  • Serving as a fiduciary to the city’s public pension funds

  • Ensuring transparency and accountability in city contracts, as well as prevailing wage and living wage laws

County Clerks and Comptrollers in Florida

In the state of Florida, there are 68 independently elected Clerks of Court and Comptrollers, all serving at the county level. This local office blends the responsibilities of two roles: the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the office of comptroller. The office can vary between counties. In Orange County, for instance, the comptroller does not also serve as the Clerk of Court.

The duties of Florida comptrollers include:

  • Reviewing county budgets, tracking expenses, and providing general accounting services to the county

  • Auditing county expenses and financial activities

  • Keeping inventory of the county’s assets

  • Managing the county’s investments

  • Maintaining financial records for the Board of County Commissioners

On August 20, 2024, counties across Florida will hold elections for the office of clerk and comptroller.

How to Launch a Campaign for Comptroller

Running for comptroller or controller is similar to running for other local or state-level offices. Your campaign for comptroller will look different depending on which level of government you are competing for. It may also look different depending on your state and county.

Qualifications and Eligibility Requirements

The specific eligibility requirements to run for comptroller in your state or community may vary. Typical requirements include:

  • Age Requirement: Comptrollers typically need to be at least 18 years old to be eligible to run for office.

  • Residency: You must be a resident of the jurisdiction where you intend to be elected.

  • Citizenship: Candidates typically need to be U.S. citizens.

  • Professional Background: You may also be required to have an educational and professional background in the field of finance.

Check your state or local government’s website for specific eligibility requirements in your area. 

Practical Steps to Launching a Successful Campaign

  1. Put together your campaign platform. Make sure that your outline consists of the policies and plans that you aim to implement to improve financial responsibility, transparency, and accountability. This platform should serve as a framework for the vision you plan to fulfill once you get elected as comptroller.

  2. Assemble your campaign team. Whether paid staff members or volunteers, assembling the right team of people can make a world of difference. Volunteers can assist with voter outreach and raising your campaign’s visibility.

  3. Establish an online presence. Create a campaign website and dedicated social media accounts, so that voters can easily find information about your campaign.

  4. Reach out to voters. Connect with voters through local events, canvassing, phone banking, and other strategies. Be sure to tailor your outreach to the specific concerns of voters.

  5. Get out the vote. As election day approaches, encourage as many supporters as possible to get to the polls and cast their ballots.

Throughout your campaign, you must also adhere to campaign finance laws. These laws govern the funding of political campaigns to promote fairness, accountability, and transparency during the election period. The laws revolve around disclosure agreements, contribution limits, anti-corruption measures, and regulations on independent expenditures.

For more tips on running a successful campaign for state or local office, explore our full collection of campaign guides here.

Free Tools for Your Comptroller Campaign offers free campaign tools for independent, non-partisan, and third-party candidates running for office across the United States. 

Want to get access to free campaign tools and community support? Book a free consultation with our team of campaign experts, or start exploring our tools for yourself. Either way, we’ll get you connected with the resources you need to make your campaign a success.

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How to Run for Office
By Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.