Democrats leading fundraising in county

2 commissioner seats up for grabs

La Plata County commissioner candidates filed their first round of campaign finance records this week, giving an initial peek into the money behind the upcoming election season.

At this early stage in the election season, Democratic candidates are outpacing their Republican opponents in terms of fundraising. The campaign finance reports show money donated from last October through May.

Two commissioner seats are up for grabs in November. In District 2, incumbent Republican Kellie Hotter is running against Democrat Gwen Lachelt, executive director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project.

Hotter has raised $5,315 in contributions since she announced her candidacy in January. Hotter’s biggest contributors were the La Plata County Republican Party, which donated $1,500, and Doug Sitter, executive director of The Back Space Theatre, who donated $1,000. Of the 35 contributors, 15 gave more than $100.

Lachelt has raised more than double that amount, raking in $14,833 from 154 donors. Almost 50 people gave more than $100. Top contributions included $2,500 from the La Plata County Democratic Party and $1,300 from Kathleen Adams, a Durango resident who is president of the nonprofit Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association.

The number of contributors to her campaign “demonstrates that La Plata County is ready for a change,” Lachelt said.

Hotter countered that her campaign’s early fundraising numbers are no indication of where this election season is headed.

“I haven’t held one single fundraiser because I’m so busy on the job,” Hotter said.

And while she may have fewer donors, Hotter pointed out that several of Lachelt’s donors are from outside of Colorado. Donor address information shows that 19 people from out of state donated to Lachelt’s campaign while four non-Coloradans donated to Hotter.

The District 3 seat held by Wally White, who is term-limited, will be contested by Democrat Julie Westendorff and Republican Harry Baxstrom.

Westendorff, a real estate agent and former prosecutor for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, has raised $9,973. Of 90 contributors, no individual gave more than $500, but half gave $100 or more. The La Plata County Democratic Party gave $2,500 and Adams, who was also one of Lachelt’s biggest donors, gave $500.

Baxstrom, a longtime Bayfield veterinarian, raised $6,050. Baxstrom was one of the top contributors to his own campaign, giving a total of $950. His campaign’s other big funders are Barbara Mueller, who gave $1,000, and the La Plata County Republican Party, which gave $1,500. Half of the 36 contributors gave more than $100.