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Democrats announce candidacy at La Plata County party dinner

Candidates for CU regent, statehouse seats, county commissioner and district attorney announced
Candidates running for the Democratic nomination for various elected positions introduced themselves to voters at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day potluck at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 on Monday. La Plata County commissioners Marsha Porter-Norton, left, and Matt Salka, right, are both running for reelection in their respective districts. (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)

Democrats running for various state and local offices formally announced their candidacy Monday at the La Plata County Democrats annual Soup ‘n Soul Potluck honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

In a slew of campaign speeches before approximately 100 voters at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031, the candidates made their opening salvos based on quotes from the civil rights leader.

La Plata County commissioners Marsha Porter-Norton and Matt Salka are running for second terms in Districts 2 and 3, respectively (although commissioners are elected at-large by all county voters). They are both currently running unopposed in their primary and general election races.

Robert Logan, a retired Durango High School social studies teacher and veteran, announced his candidacy for the Colorado University Board of Regents representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District. The board oversees the university’s governance and is made up of nine representatives, one from each of the state’s eight congressional districts and one at-large. He currently has no registered opponent.

“I want to be an advocate for all groups at the highest level of academic achievement,” said Robert Logan, a retired Durango High School teacher running to represent Congressional District 3 on the Colorado University Board of Regents. “My aim is to encourage and promote an ethical, purpose-driven, diverse population of young people so that our future may be secure.” (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)

Vivian Smotherman, a farmer and veteran who spent over 20 years working in oil and gas, announced she is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Cleave Simpson for the state Senate District 6 seat. Smotherman lives north of Durango and is running in a newly configured 14-county district stretching from the San Luis Valley west to the Utah border and as far north as Montrose and Saguache counties. Although Simpson is an incumbent, he was elected in Senate District 35, which did not include the western counties. Districts were redrawn in 2022.

“My courage lies in my commitment to the people I care about,” said Vivian Smotherman, who is running to represent the 6th State Senate District. “My courage comes from my refusal to let them down.” (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald).

Katie Stewart, a member of the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education and fourth-generation Durangoan, announced she is running for the Demcratic nomination to fill Rep. Barbara McLachlan’s seat representing House District 59 in the Colorado General Assembly. McLachlan is term-limited. Ignacio Mayor Clark Craig, a Republican, has also begun his campaign for the seat.

Katie Stewart, who is running for the 59th House District seat in the General Assembly, said she feels “uniquely qualified” to fight for public education funding because of her position on the Durango School District 9-R school board, where which she intends to continue her service even if she is elected to the House seat. (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)
“Most criminal cases, outside the serious felonies, involve damaged people. But people just like you and me proactively understanding them and addressing what has damaged them and helping with accountability, rather than simply reacting with punishment without accountability, will yield better results to our community,” Jason Eley told voters. Eley, an assistant district attorney in the 22nd Judicial District, is running for District Attorney in the 6th Judicial District. (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)
“While we have the experience and the mettle to handle major criminal trials, like murder and sex assault, we also have the wisdom to discern when a rehabilitation sentence is called for,” said Sean Murray, an assistant district attorney running for the top spot in the 6th Judicial District. “While we have the tenacity to seek incarceration for the most serious offenses and offenders, we will promote restorative justice when dialogue is the path to progress.” (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)

So far, the only contested primary race is for District Attorney of the 6th Judicial District. The seat is currently held by Christian Champagne, who is term-limited. Jason Eley, an assistant district attorney in the 22nd Judicial District, and Sean Murray, an ADA in the 6th District, are both seeking the Democratic nomination. There are no candidates from other parties running for the position.

The event kicked off what is likely to be a fraught election cycle leading up to this November.

“We have elections to win and, truly, a democracy to save,” Party Chairwoman Anne Markward said in her introduction.

The evening was full of occasional shots at the GOP and Rep. Lauren Boebert (the room erupted in applause at the mention of her recent decision to run in the 4th Congressional District), and constant allusions to King and the civil rights movement.

Even Porter-Norton, who spent most of her speech highlighting various accomplishments from her time in office, made a veiled critique of La Plata County GOP Chairwoman Shelli Shaw when she said it was “shameful” not to certify an election.

Like his colleague, Salka spent most of his allotted time recalling accomplishments from his term in office. Stewart and Murray spoke in a similar manner.

Other candidates, such as Eley, Smotherman and Logan, trended toward introducing themselves to voters while referring back to broader philosophical identifiers.

“My courage lies in my commitment to the people I care about,” Smotherman said. “My courage comes from my refusal to let them down.”

The party will choose nominees March 9 at the caucus and assembly event at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

The county’s Republican Party will caucus March 7 and hold an assembly March 14. The GOP hosted two candidates at the party’s first monthly meeting Tuesday, however, reporters from The Durango Herald have been previously barred from such events.


This story has been updated to correct a misspelling of La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka’s name in the photo caption.

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