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La Plata County Republicans nominate one candidate for commissioner

No GOP candidates will appear in second commissioner race, other county races
There were 98 registered delegates representing 33 precincts at the La Plata County Republican assembly, held at the county Fairgrounds Thursday evening. (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)

“We the people” baseball caps, Gadsden flag T-shirts and Trump cowboy hats were among the apparel items proudly displayed by some attendees of the La Plata County Republican Party Assembly.

The 98 GOP precinct committee persons, representing 33 precincts, gathered Thursday evening at the La Plata County Fairgrounds to nominate candidates for county-level elections and delegates from the party to vote at higher-level assemblies.

It was an evening of patriotic effervescence, punctuated by former state Rep. J. Paul Brown offering an assertive “second” each time a motion came before the floor.

The big news of the night was that the party nominated Ron Bogs, who was recently tapped to serve as the GOP’s second vice chairman, to run against La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka for Board of County Commissioner seat representing district three. Salka is a Democrat.

District 3 comprises the eastern portion of La Plata County and is anchored in Bayfield, although all commissioners are elected at-large.

Until Thursday, no candidates had emerged to challenge Salka or District Two Commissioner Marsha Porter-Norton, also a Democrat, in their bids for reelection. Porter-Norton still does not have a challenger and likely will run unopposed in November.

The evening began with the typical rituals – saying a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.

Party Chairman Dave Peters then got the crowd fired up.

“If you think you’re better off now than you were three years ago, you’re probably an illegal alien,” he said.

He urged party members to connect with people who don’t typically vote Republican, such as young people and Latinos. Notably, he urged candidates to build relationships with journalists.

Ignacio Mayor Clark Craig is running for the 59th House District seat held by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, who is term limited. He spoke at the La Plata County Republican assembly, held at the county Fairgrounds on Thursday evening. (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)

The delegates then heard from several candidates running in regional elections who will be formally nominated at higher-level assemblies. Ignacio Mayor Clark Craig, who is running to represent House District 59 in the Colorado General Assembly, spoke briefly and emphasized unity.

Ron Hanks and Lew Webb, both candidates in a crowded field of Republicans vying for the 3rd Congressional District seat left vacant by Rep. Lauren Boebert, spoke as well.

Hanks sold himself as the hand-picked candidate of the far-right wing of the party, and said the seat needed to be filled by the most conservative representative possible so that Donald Trump, if reelected, has “a conservative Congress that doesn’t sandbag him,” in the way he said former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan did.

Ron Bogs, the La Plata County Republican Central Committee second vice chairman, is challenging Commissioner Matt Salka for the seat representing the 3rd district on the Board of County Commissioners. (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)
One commissioner contest, another seat uncontested

As La Plata County has appeared less purple and increasingly blue, the party has struggled to find candidates for county-level positions.

Brad Blake, a former county commissioner, ran and lost in 2022 in a race to reclaim the seat from which he was ousted by Commissioner Clyde Church.

“I probably wasn’t the best candidate, but nobody else would run,” he told The Durango Herald last year.

This year, Blake introduced and nominated Bogs.

Bogs lives between Durango and Bayfield and works for C & J Gravel Products. He moved to the area in 2014.

“We can’t just give the seats to the other side when someone’s always saying we have to give our side an opinion,” he said when asked why he was running. “We have to fight for what we want, so I’m going to be that person.”

His top priorities if elected are to improve the county’s roads and reduce regulations on oil and gas extraction, he said.

The county’s road and bridge department funding is hobbled by a low property tax rate. Taxes for that fund must be specifically approved by voters and may not be transferred over from other revenue streams, including general property tax revenue. Short of changing state law, which is all but impossible, the county has few options but to ask voters for a tax increase.

Bogs declined to take a stance on the matter.

“I would have to do my research to see if there were better alternatives,” he said.

The party did not nominate anyone to run against newly appointed county treasurer Moni Grushkin, who has filed to run for the seat. No candidates have filed to run for the position of county surveyor. The roles of surveyor and treasurer are relatively nonpartisan.

“We had more resolutions than we’ve ever had. And people had opinions,” said Dave Peters, party chairman, at the La Plata County Republican assembly. “It’s great to have people show both sides of it. It’s a democracy, and we voted.” (Reuben M. Schafir/Durango Herald)
Whereas extensive debate ensued, be it resolved resolutions were adopted

Party leaders stumbled when it came to the procedural requirements of approving the 34 resolutions initially put forth by the party’s caucuses. But after much conversation over how to discuss, wordsmith and approve the resolutions, the party’s precinct captains approved over 25 of those proposed.

Debate trudged on in mostly good spirits for well over two hours. Jokes flew about one precinct committee person sipping Red Bull. By 9:50 p.m., the speaker system died, although it hardly mattered, as the crowd had thinned by about 50%.

The word-level revisions were somewhat of a futile exercise, Blake said. The resolutions that were approved are sent to the state party for consideration, and will be scrutinized as state delegates consider adding them to the party platform.

The resolutions are an important way for party members to make their voices heard, Blake pointed out, although just how well they will be listened to is debatable.

Still, cacophonous debate nonetheless ensued in the echoey meeting hall before the delegates from each precinct voted.

The resolutions ranged from understated and predictable – such as one opposing the reintroduction of wolves, wolverines and grizzly bears – to the absurd, such as a resolution suggested that rural Colorado secede from the rest of the state.

Delegates rejected two of the most extreme resolutions put up for a vote.

One would have resolved that “the Governor and metro state legislators do not represent rural Colorado,” and another would have resolved that “rural Colorado succeed (sic) from the state of Colorado and form a new state.”

“I am opposed to this resolution because it’s got the wrong word in there and it doesn’t make sense,” Sheryl Ayers said during a comment period on the latter topic.

A resolution supporting a law banning abortion garnered extensive debate as party members wrestled with whether there should be any exceptions to such a law. The resolution, as offered, did not make mention of any exceptions to a hypothetical abortion ban.

The resolution passed as written with some dissenting votes.

Peters celebrated the evening in a brief interview at the conclusion of the night.

“We had more resolutions than we’ve ever had. And people had opinions,” he said. “It’s great to have people show both sides of it. It’s a democracy, and we voted.”

rschafir@durangoherald.com



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