In an era of hyper partisanship, state Sen. Barbara McLachlan touts her record working with Republican lawmakers in Southwest Colorado to drive beneficial legislation for state House District 59, a largely rural region remote from the Front Range.
But for her opponent, Paul Jones of Gunnison, that’s not good enough. He’s running as an Independent looking for a new political era in which politicians move beyond party labels.
McLachlan calls her 20 years in teaching the best job she ever had, and said it has helped her become a better listener as a legislator during her first term in the Colorado House of Representatives representing a district that includes La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Gunnison, Hinsdale and Ouray counties.
“If you’re not a good listener, you’re not going to be a very good teacher,” the Durango Democrat said.
McLachlan, who retired from Durango School District 9-R, said she works well with state Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and state Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, in representing Southwest Colorado and fighting proposals that would hurt the largely rural 59th House District.
Jones, a retired aquatic conservation biologist who spent 26 years in Colorado Parks and Wildlife, maintains Independents have a broader ability to reach consensus and broker deals among conflicted stakeholders.
“Right now, politics is divided into teams, and when you’re a team player, it means you’re focused on the team’s ideals, whether Democrat or Republican. But we need to be willing to be able to sit down with anyone to craft solutions,” he said. “When you’re on a team, you’ve got a coach, and when you don’t do what the coach says, you get benched.”
Top 5 listMcLachlan’s to-do list if returned to the state House would include:
Improve the forest-urban interface area from wildfires.Pass a measure that would provide vocational education internships for high school students. Develop a pilot program where college students can spend stints doing community service projects for a wide variety of nonprofits and other organizations in return for credits to lower their tuition or student-loan bills. Working on measures that further address the teacher shortage in many rural Colorado school districts. Secure Western Slope water from being diverted to the Eastern Slope. For Jones, a top five to-do list if elected would include:
Crafting a solution to the budgetary inconsistencies and frictions caused by several amendments to the Colorado Constitution and send that fix to the voters for approval. Protect water rights on the Western Slope.Promote efforts to provide quality mental health services and to increase effective suicide-prevention measures.Maintain the viability of the state’s land conservation easement tax into the future to protect agriculture and wildlands from development.Find innovative ways ease the impacts of the outdoors and recreation industry on public lands. Reader-asked questionsThe Durango Herald asked readers what questions they’d like candidates to address. One reader wanted McLachlan to weigh in on how the state could help to alleviate the homeless crisis. McLachlan said the state could improve the funding and effectiveness of drug-abuse programs, and more broadly, mental health programs. She also said the state could work with doctors to ensure they do not overprescribe opioids.
“I think the state needs to look at the causes of it (homelessness) rather than sweeping them off the street because the problem would still exist,” she said.
A reader asked Jones how he would help lower health insurance premiums.
Jones said he would begin by exploring the creation of nonprofit insurance companies.
“We need to look at all the options,” he said, noting that in 2018, his insurance rates increased 25 percent with no increase in benefits.
Campaign financeAccording to campaign-finance documents filed with the <URL destination="http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/homepage.aspx">Colorado secretary of s
tate</URL>, McLachlan had $42,908 cash on hand. She had received $87,768 in contributions and had $66,636 in expenditures. She started the campaign with a beginning balance of $21,176 in her campaign fund.
The top donor to McLachlan’s campaign in the latest reporting period from Sept. 13 to Sept. 26 came from Conservation Colorado Action Fund Committee, which made a donation of $2,500 for the period, bringing its total donations to the McLachlan campaign to $3,500. For the period, her top expenditure was $15,465 to Mad Dog Mail Inc. of Fernandina Beach, Florida, for mailers.
Jones has $9,896 in cash on hand. For the campaign, he has collected $23,957 in donations and has spent $9,896.
In the latest reporting period, from Sept. 13 to Sept. 26, six individuals donated $400 to the campaign, tying as the top donors. Two more individuals donated $375, bringing their total donations to the campaign to $400. The top expenditure went to Polestar of Denver for consulting and professional services.