State House Rep. Barbara McLachlan has a challenger.
Gunnison resident and retired Colorado Parks and Wildlife game warden Paul Jones announced Tuesday he will run for District 59 as an independent in the upcoming November election.
“I’ve never been in politics before, but I’m pretty excited by it,” Jones told The Durango Herald. “I’m hoping I can provide a voice for people in the district that are feeling left out.”
District 59 covers a chunk of Southwest Colorado, including Durango, Pagosa Springs, Silverton, Ridgway, Lake City and up to Gunnison.
McLachlan, a Democrat, won the seat in 2016, beating incumbent J. Paul Brown, a Republican, by a 23,336 to 22,661 vote. The race was the most expensive House race in the state with more than $311,000 raised between the two candidates.
McLachlan, who announced earlier this year she intends to seek re-election, previously had no known challengers.
Jones and McLachlan are the only candidates registered with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office as of Tuesday.
It’s unclear if the Republican Party intends to put forth a candidate for the seat. Calls to Colton Black, head of the La Plata County Republicans, were not returned. Daniel Cole, communications director for the Colorado Republican Party, was attempting to determine if the GOP would field a candidate.
Jones, a Montrose native who moved to Gunnison in 1995, said he retired from CPW last June, and, frustrated by politics at both the state and national level, said he wanted to help.
Jones said he has always been a registered independent, which is fitting for a district that shifts back and forth between Republican and Democrat representatives.
“We have a very diverse population with diverse needs, and ideological approaches to solving problems usually leaves a lot of people frustrated and out in the cold,” he said. “Balanced solutions are usually the best ideas.”
Among other issues, Jones said he sees education in rural Colorado as a major problem.
“We’re raising our kids in these communities, but there’s really no financial opportunities for them to stay,” he said. “And the cost of living has increased, but economic opportunity seems to be slow.”
Jones also said the middle class seems to be lagging behind, and he hopes to restore small-business growth with incentives for starting new businesses and strengthening existing businesses.
Of environmental and natural resources, Jones says on his website that all users of Colorado’s lands, including hunters, kayakers and ranchers, need to come together and protect public and private lands.
McLachlan did not immediately return calls Tuesday seeking comment.