Durango resident Jack Turner, an unaffiliated candidate who lost his bid for county commission in November, is considering moving to into another district to be able to run for the commission again in 2022.
“Right now I’m not declaring myself a candidate,” Turner said. “But I’m willing to look and see.”
In a race that pitted two longtime La Plata County residents against each other, Turner ran last election against Democratic candidate Marsha Porter-Norton for District 2, which covers mostly the city of Durango.
It should be noted, however, that county commission seats are elected at-large, meaning all eligible voters in the county can vote for county commission candidates, regardless of which district they hail from.
Throughout the election, Turner touted his choice to run as an unaffiliated candidate, saying it freed him from the supposed ties and responsibilities when running under a traditional party.
The race, it turned out, came exceptionally close, taking election officials more than a week to officially call a winner.
Ultimately, however, Porter-Norton won, taking 16,747 votes to Turner’s 16,581 – a difference of 166 votes.
“I actually left feeling really optimistic,” Turner said. “And I feel we showed it’s possible for an independent candidate, not obligated to either party, to get close enough to win, and I don’t want to give up on that.”
Now it appears Turner is considering whether to move to the only district up for grabs in 2022 – District 1 – which mostly covers the western half of La Plata County, a seat currently held by Clyde Church.
Church, serving his first term in office, did not immediately return calls seeking comment, so it’s unclear if he intends to run for a second term in 2022.
Church, a Democrat and Falls Creek resident, was part of another close race for county commissioner in 2018 when he ousted incumbent Republican Brad Blake by just 23 votes.
Turner, for his part, says he wants to gauge the community’s response, whether positive or negative, to the prospect of him moving into District 1 to run in 2022, again as an unaffiliated candidate.
“If I get the feeling it’s not a popular decision across the county, I’ll withdraw,” he said. “But I want to keep hope alive for independent candidates.”
To qualify, Turner would have to move into District 1 by Nov. 7 of this year. It’s state law a candidate must live in a district at least one year to be able to run for county commission in that district.
Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County, said she’s not aware of a candidate intentionally moving into a district to run for a seat on the county commission, at least not in the past 25 years.
“I certainly don’t remember that ever having occurred,” she said.
Turner, admittedly, faces several obstacles before making a back-to-back run for county commission. For one, he currently rents his place in Durango, and he’s not sure he can find an affordable place in District 1.
“Real estate is so high,” he said. “It’s not easy to rent a place. I’m a working person in this county, and I can’t just snap my fingers and buy a new house.”
And, for Turner to qualify for the election, he’d have to receive a certain number of resident signatures to be placed on the ballot. That process would be allowed to start in May.
As part of Colorado law, unaffiliated candidates must collect the number of signatures that reflects at least 2% of the votes cast in the previous election in the district in which they are running.
In 2020, that meant Turner needed to collect at least 601 valid signatures. Ultimately, he turned in more than 1,000 signatures.
Though Turner admits bringing up the 2022 election may seem premature, it’s not unprecedented. His previous opponent, Porter-Norton, announced her bid for county commission in Feb. 2019, more than a year before the 2020 election.
“There’s a number of factors that may say I can’t do it,” he said. “But I’m willing to learn from my first experience and go at it again.”
Turner said he has no hard deadline for when he will decide whether to officially run again, other than pointing out he needs to move into District 1 by Nov. 7. He asked people give him feedback through his website, email or stopping him on the street.