Dave Woodruff will join Gilda Yazzie as a newly elected Durango city councilor.
After nine days of suspense, the race between Woodruff and candidate Harrison Wendt was determined shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday. Woodruff came out of the tight race with four more votes than his opponent.
Tiffany Lee, La Plata County clerk and recorder, announced Woodruff’s victory after a recount on Thursday.
The number of votes each candidate received after the recount was identical to the number of votes they had Thursday morning before the recount, which included military and cured ballots. Of 4,675 total votes cast, Woodruff received 2,435 votes and Wendt received 2,431 votes.
Woodruff ran a campaign that promised to bring transparency and business acumen to Durango City Council. He emphasized his 17 years in Durango’s restaurant industry, pointing to his experience as the president of the Durango chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association and former general manager of El Moro Spirits & Tavern.
And, he said he is a family man, married with children, who understands what it takes to raise a family in Durango.
Woodruff said he is “ecstatic” that he won.
“Truly, every single vote counts, and it’s really important that people are engaged with the election and voting process,” he said.
He said he is excited to represent Durango residents, whether they voted for him or not.
He also complimented Wendt’s campaign and said he is saddened that Wendt won’t be joining him on council.
“Harrison made a really great run at council,” he said. “You know, he put in the most work out of any of us and he absolutely deserved to be up there. I’m sad that he won’t be up there.”
Wendt congratulated Woodruff and Yazzie.
“I am so incredibly happy for Dave and Gilda,” he said. “And of course this isn’t the outcome that we had hoped for. But I know that Gilda and Dave will do wonderful things for our community and for Durango.”
Wendt was the only candidate with previous campaign experience. He first ran in the 2021 City Council race where he lost by a fair margin. He said this time around was a vastly different experience.
“I put in hours every day seven days a week for the last four months,” he said. “I attended nearly every City Council meeting and study session and other special meetings to prepare myself and to understand the vast issues, and I connected with people who I normally would have never chosen to connect with before.”
Woodruff said he looks forward to working with Yazzie and other city councilors. He stressed that Wendt deserves to be on City Council, and he is sorry the election came down to one or the other.
Lee said the election went smoothly, despite necessitating a recount.
The office had no issues with voter registration software, tabulation equipment or other potential problems that could delay results, she said.
Candidates and their supporters behaved themselves, too, she said. The clerk and her staff didn’t hear any groundless accusations of election or voter fraud, which were all too common during and after the 2020 presidential election when baseless conspiracies were egged on by former president Donald Trump and his fervent supporters.
The clerk’s office counted 65 ballots Thursday morning as part of the curing process. Of those, 12 were from military and overseas voters and 28 were from residents who had to fix a signature issue or ID issue. Twenty-five ballots, selection at random, were withheld by the clerk’s office and counted as part of the curing process.
Lee said holding 25 ballots is a standard elections practice that helps to protect voter anonymity. The identities of voters who need to cure their ballots are public information. In a very close race where one or very few cured ballots sway the outcome, people can infer how those votes were cast.