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La Plata County commissioner race decided by 23 votes

Win marks first time a single party has held all board seats since 1940s
Clyde Church, a Democrat, defeated incumbent La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake by 23 votes, the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder announced Thursday. He is shown here at a Democratic watch party during the primaries in June.

Democratic candidate Clyde Church has beaten incumbent La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake, a Republican, by 23 votes to become the county’s newest commissioner.

Clerk & Recorder Tiffany Parker said Thursday that final results show Church ended up with 13,885 votes to Blake’s 13,862 votes.

The election results will be audited by the state Saturday. If the review comes back clear, the Clerk’s Office will likely not be required to perform a full recount of ballots cast, Parker said.

The Clerk’s Office will have to review some “adjudicated” ballots, such as ballots where voters crossed out one candidate and selected another, but there aren’t enough of those ballots to sway the election, Parker said.

In the Nov. 6 election, the race for La Plata County commissioner was too close to call. Preliminary results on Election Day showed Blake held a slim lead against Church by 47 votes.

But over the course of the week, Parker factored in about 550 potential votes that needed to be taken into account for various reasons.

The results put Church, a Falls Creek resident, ahead of Blake to represent District 1.

County Commissioner District 1
November 15, 2018, 3:51:56 PM
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The election of Church marks the first time one party has held the three-person La Plata County Board of County Commissioners since 1940, when the Republican Party held the board for eight years.

Church said he believes unaffiliated voters swayed the election in his favor.

Just before the election, La Plata County had 11,113 registered Democrats, 10,402 Republicans and 13,242 unaffiliated voters.

“Republicans and Democrats can’t elect a candidate themselves,” he said. “You need strong support from independents. They’re the people that hold the elections in the balance.”

Regardless of party affiliation, Church said he will remain dedicated to all people of La Plata County.

Clyde Church, a Democrat, defeated incumbent La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake by 23 votes, the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder announced Thursday. He is shown here at a Democratic watch party on Nov. 6.

Church said in a previous interview he moved to Durango in 1999 after working for decades in the technology and business field, working for Sperry Defense Systems and Metalcraft, as well as Iowa State University’s College of Engineering.

Around the time he moved to Durango, he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, after the Republican Party started to move in a direction he disagreed with, he said.

“The Republican Party was starting to fracture as the far-right wing was gaining political clout,” he said previously. “We were moderate Republicans, always trying to move the Republican Party to a moderate position.”

Church said Thursday morning he was surprised at the election results but said his victory was the result of meeting and talking with all kinds of people in the county.

“I don’t see any partisanship (on the board),” he said. “If you go into the office with strong opinions or agendas, that is not going to work.”

Church will join the Board of County Commissioners as it deals with a dwindling budget as a result of revenue shortfalls related to the downturn of the oil and gas industry in the county.

And, he will be part of an effort to update the county’s antiquated land-use code, an issue that has plagued the county for years.

“I want to get to work,” he said. “I’m excited.”

Blake, first elected in 2014, wished Church luck when contacted Thursday morning.

Blake

Blake said he barely won his first bid as commissioner four years ago, so he wasn’t shocked at this election’s outcome.

“I was anticipating a really close race,” he said.

Blake said the county was able to accomplish a lot of good work in his time as commissioner, namely finding solutions to the county’s office space and building needs.

Blake and his family own and operate a real estate and plumbing business in La Plata County, so he said he’ll still be around.

“We’ve got a lot of things to focus on,” he said. “We’re just really blessed.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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