Just who the heck is Paul Jones?
Many folks in Colorado House District 59, which includes La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray, Hinsdale and Gunnison counties, are asking the same question this week, and we are glad about that.
Jones, a political independent and Montrose native who now resides in Gunnison, has petitioned his way onto the November ballot against incumbent Democrat Barbara McLachlan. Establishing better name recognition in the district is definitely on the top of his campaign to-do list.
His candidacy reminds us that the biggest surprise of this election year is the absence of a Republican in the race, despite the fact that McLachlan took the seat away from Republican J. Paul Brown by just 675 votes in 2016.
Jones, who laments the polarization and subsequent gridlocked nature of politics at all levels, has picked a good time to make a bid for office. He believes, perhaps rightly, that his independent status will appeal to significant numbers of liberals and conservatives alike.
But also high on Jones’s list is the need to illustrate how his approach differs from that of his opponent.
Jones, retired from a career as a game warden with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 2017, is a lifelong supporter of the state’s vast public lands and an advocate for protecting the environment. If elected, he has promised to expand post-secondary education options for students in rural Colorado, including trade school options, which should help young people establish careers and remain closer to home.
Protecting public lands and improving rural education, of course, are written in bold type on the opening page of McLachlan’s playbook. So far, she has been an effective legislator and unabashed advocate for the district.
Three of her successful bills from this year – an expansion of rural broadband (HB18-1099), a plan to address the rural teacher shortage (SB18-042) and support for the next generation of Colorado farmers (SB18-085) – just took effect.
But regardless of his status as a clear underdog, and McLachan’s impressive record, we welcome Paul Jones to the arena. No seat in Denver should be guaranteed; the winner of this race will benefit from a contested campaign.