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Marsha Porter-Norton wins seat for La Plata County commissioner

Democratic candidate beats challenger Jack Turner by 166 votes

Democratic candidate Marsha Porter-Norton has officially won the seat for La Plata County commissioner for District 2.

La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker called the election Friday morning, saying Porter-Norton beat challenger Jack Turner, who ran as an unaffiliated candidate, by a vote of 16,747 to 16,581, a difference of 166 votes.

On election night, Porter-Norton held a 114-vote lead over Turner, but because of incoming votes from overseas and ballots that needed to be fixed, Parker held off on calling the race.

Since Election Day, a total of 395 more votes were counted, Parker said, and Porter-Norton’s lead continued to grow. She will replace sitting Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, who is term-limited.

Porter-Norton and Turner are both longtime locals who highlighted their deep roots in the community. Porter-Norton said she was glad Turner made it a contested race, calling him a “formidable candidate.”

“I’m just really happy and really ready to serve,” Porter-Norton said. “I appreciate the victory.”

Turner, in an emailed statement to The Durango Herald, offered his congratulations to Porter-Norton.

“She has the qualifications and experience to be a good county commissioner,” Turner wrote.

County Commissioner - District 2
Marsha Porter-Norton vs. Jack Turner
November 13, 2020, 12:54:34 PM
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This year’s race for La Plata County commissioner was unique in that it was likely the first election in the county’s history where a Republican candidate did not run for office, Parker previously said.

Instead, Turner, along with Charly Minkler, who ran for District 3 as an unaffiliated candidate against Matt Salka, a Democrat, sought to become the first ever unaffiliated candidates to serve on the La Plata County commission.

But those efforts ultimately failed, with Minkler also losing to Salka by a final vote of 18,058 to 14,723, a difference of 3,335 votes.

“A key principle of our campaign expressed that our most important mission is to get along with each other through respect, compromise and common sense,” Turner wrote.

Now, the three-person board of La Plata County commissioners will remain all Democrats, which took control in 2018 and marked the first time one party held all three seats since 1940 when they were all held by Republicans.

Over the years, conservative-leaning residents have said they don’t feel represented at the local level, especially as La Plata County’s trend toward a blue-stronghold increases year over year.

But throughout the election, both Porter-Norton and Salka stressed they would represent all residents of the county, no matter where they lived.

Porter-Norton, who grew up on a ranch near Cortez, highlighted her work over the years as a facilitator, constantly reaching across party lines to come together on hot-button issues, like securing protections for Hermosa Creek.

“I will make a special effort to visit with people,” she said. “People who didn’t vote for me need to understand I will represent them, too.”

Salka, for his part, reminded residents of his time as mayor of Bayfield, a traditionally conservative area of the county that is defined by agriculture as well as the oil and gas industry.

Porter-Norton and Salka will join Commissioner Clyde Church on Jan. 12 on the commission, at a time when the county must navigate the obstacles set forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salka will take the seat of Commissioner Julie Westendorff, who is also term-limited.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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