After final voting results filtered in early Wednesday, incumbent La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake appears to have retained his seat representing District 1.
With about 28,500 votes counted as of 12:12 a.m., the sitting Republican commissioner had 50.09 percent of the vote, or 13,725. Opponent Clyde Church, a Democrat, had 49.91 percent of the vote, or 13,678.
The unofficial results show Blake won by 47 votes.
County Commissioner District 1
“I always felt all along it would be a super close race,” said Blake, who won the commissioner’s seat in 2014 by 90 votes. “It was a tough race, but that seems to be the case here in La Plata County. I appreciate people’s votes, and I will try to continue to do good work for the county.”
La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker said there are still military ballots to take into account, as well as verifying some ballots with signature discrepancies. As a result, close races hold the potential to change. Official results won’t be known until Nov. 14, she said.
Church said early Wednesday morning he’s still hopeful.
“Until they go through the whole process ... it’s really up in the air,” he said. “But I thank everyone that’s helped me.”
Earlier in the evening at the La Plata County Democrats’ election party at the Strater Hotel, Church said, “I thought it would be close. Your gut tells you one thing, but your head has all this conflicted activity going on – should I have campaigned more or spent more? We’re at least close.”
Blake and Church ran a cordial campaign this election, absent of attacks or harsh criticism. Instead, both shared similar goals for the county, though their preferred methods differed at times.
In a rare instance of political sparring, Church said he would have brought a “moderate” voice to the Board of County Commissioners, painting Blake as a “Tea Party Republican.”
Blake, for his part, said he left the tea party years ago when infighting began. And, he touted a four-year track record of working well with the two other commissioners on the board, both Democrats.
Church also called Blake a climate-change denier.
Blake, refuted the allegation, saying he believes the climate is changing, but the jury is out as to how much humans are responsible.
“I’ve owned two Priuses and run a solar company, so (that criticism) is pretty funny to me,” Blake said in a previous interview. “I’m not sure Clyde has done that.”
Despite the infrequent back and forth, the candidates agreed that battling La Plata County’s dwindling budget and addressing a much needed update to its land-use code will be the biggest challenges for the winner of this year’s race.
For years, La Plata County’s operating budget has been on the decline as oil and gas property tax revenues fall. Budget cuts have forced the county to make tough decision about where to cut services.
Blake said in a previous interview it may be necessary to ask voters again for a modest tax increase to help services, such as road and bridge improvements.
“Ultimately, it is up to the voters of La Plata County to either raise taxes upon themselves or decrease services upon themselves,” Blake said. “But at some point, roads will become bad enough that you have to do something.”
Church reiterated similar sentiments, and he said there should be a greater effort to include the public in the decision making about what services should be cut if voters refuse a tax increase.
If re-elected, it would be Blake’s final term as commissioner. He runs a real estate company that owns and manages rentals. He also owns Blake Mechanical, a mechanical and plumbing service, which is run by his wife and son.
Church moved to Durango in 1999 after working for decades in the technology and business field, working for Sperry Defense Systems, Metalcraft, as well as Iowa State University’s College of Engineering. He is now retired and lives in the Falls Creek area.