Sparks sometimes flew at the La Plata-Archuleta Cattlemen’s Association debate at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, where seemingly every politician in a tight race – and every politician in an easy race – showed Monday night to woo voters.
Mike McLachlan, a Democrat, touted his record getting 21 bills out of house committees, saying it beat that of his Republican opponent, J. Paul Brown, who got fewer bills into law during his term.
McLachlan defended his 2013 votes for laws that limited magazine clips, among other things, as important to public health and safety.
“I don’t hate guns,” he said.
He also defended illegal immigrants getting drivers’ licenses in Colorado, saying that “while it may offend you that illegal immigrants who don’t have citizenship in the United States can drive in the state of Colorado,” on balance, it’s much more dangerous for public safety if illegal immigrants don’t know how to drive and drive uninsured.
Brown said the state could do more to send illegal immigrants home.
Brown supported gun rights, and said as a rancher, he possesses vital knowledge of agriculture, the state’s second-biggest industry.
He said the condition of Colorado’s infrastructure hugely concerns him, citing the decrepit state of many roads.
Brown said a bill in Congress that would rewrite regulations pertaining to the Clean Water Act, constitutes a “power grab” by the federal government. He said it would mandate “different things that you’ll have to get permits for to do things on private property.” McLachlan said at this stage, he did not necessarily oppose the bill.
In the La Plata County Commissioners race, Brad Blake, a Republican, said he was pro-business, pro-oil and gas, and against the United Nations interfering in La Plata County.
He said he opposed the United Nations Agenda 21, a voluntary, nonbinding action plan pertaining to environmental sustainability, for this reason.
His opponent Democrat Cynthia Roebuck, also said she was pro-businesss and pro-oil and gas but said she hadn’t read Agenda 21, saying she didn’t deem it “particularly relevant to our community.”
Roebuck said if elected county commissioner, she would oppose hundreds of thousands of dollars of wasteful spending on consultants to develop La Plata County land-use codes.
Both candidates for La Plata County treasurer agreed party affiliation didn’t matter much.
Republican Bobby Lieb cited his background in business and many stints in local government, including his current office of La Plata County Commissioner, as reasons to trust him.
If elected treasurer, Lieb said he would institute more online bill and tax paying and “eliminate temptation by reducing the many portal through which we take in funds, eliminating the number of hands who touch the money before we take it in.”
His opponent, Democrat Allison Morrissey, said her background working as a systems operations consultant for Fortune 500 companies, like Microsoft, qualified her to be treasurer.
One area she thinks ripe for improvement is reducing the duplication – and conflicting goals – of various county departments.
Morrissey said right now, the treasurer’s office and the county’s chief financial officer don’t use the same accounting systems, creating inefficiencies.
In the sheriff’s race, La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard, a Republican and five-term incumbent, emphasized his decades with local law enforcement.
He said when he first came aboard as a sheriff’s deputy, the sheriff’s office had three cars and a handful of employees. Now, he oversees hundreds of people and a $15 million budget.
He defended his recently publicized criticisms of Durango, saying he doesn’t “despise anyone. I just don’t like the political atmosphere of downtown Durango,” singling out this summer’s installation of the “Arc of History,” a sculpture standing at the DoubleTree Hotel intersection, as particularly baffling.
Schirard’s Democrat opponent, Sean Smith, said he strongly supported gun rights, having owned his first firearm from age 10. He said, “people joke that I’m weak on guns because I only own twelve.”
He said he strongly supports concealed-carry permits, and in fact, traveled to Denver to testify against the gun-control legislation that McLachlan voted for.
Smith said he fully supports Schirard’s lawsuit against that legislation and, for the most part, considers its ban of high-capacity magazines largely unenforceable. Whereas Schirard has sworn not to uphold the law, Smith said if elected sheriff, he would charge people who commit violent crimes using banned magazines with the misdemeanor offense of using the banned magazines.
Smith said the major difference between him and Schirard is “the difference between someone who’s saying vote for me because of what I’ve done and someone who’s saying vote for me because of what we can do together.”
Allison Morrissey said the treasurer’s office and the county’s chief financial officer don’t use the same account systems. An earlier version of this story misstated one of the offices. Also, Mike McLachlan got 21 bills out of committees. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that McLachlan got 21 bills out of the House Agriculture Committee.