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Thinking about running for Durango City Council? Here are some things you’ll want to know

Candidates must obtain signatures, track campaign finances and meet certain deadlines

At least five candidates have signed candidate affidavits indicating they plan to run for two open seats on Durango City Council this April. Three of the candidates have made formal announcements, and two plan to announce at a later date.

But elections are about more than flashy events, handshakes and photo ops; candidates must also jump through hoops to remain in good graces with campaign rules.

One of the first orders of business for aspiring candidates is to collect at least 25 valid signatures from eligible electors in the city of Durango. The signatures, which indicate support for someone’s candidacy, must be filed with the city clerk’s office by 3 p.m. Feb. 7.

As of Thursday, Herrison Wendt was the only candidate who had returned his signatures, said City Clerk Faye Harmer. Wendt had 38 signatures, of which 30 were verified by the clerk’s office.

Other candidates who have signed candidate affidavits but not yet returned signature petitions include David Woodruff, Carter Rogers, Douglas Snow and Gilda Yazzie, according to Harmer.

Harmer said candidates are encouraged to collect more than the bare minimum of 25 signatures because signers’ information must exactly match the Colorado Secretary of State Office’s voter registry. That means a signer must be registered to vote with the state and his or her name, address and apartment number must match the state’s information precisely.

A common cause for a petition signature to be rejected is the signer has moved and forgotten to change his or her address, the city clerk said. Or, the signer does not include his or her apartment address that is included on the state’s voter registration. And if a printed name is illegible to the city clerk it gets discounted.

Harmer said the city also encourages petitioners to turn in their petitions as soon as they feel they have gathered a sufficient number of signatures. Prompt return of petitions helps the clerk’s office so that staff aren’t verifying 30 or 40 signatures for every candidate at the deadline.

But more than that, eligible electors can sign only two petitions, and petitions are verified on a first-come, first-serve basis. That means if someone signs three petitions, only the first two that are verified will count.

Reporting requirements for candidates
Five Durango residents have signed candidate affidavits indicating they plan to run for the Durango City Council in April. (Durango Herald file)

Petition gathering is a necessary steppingstone on the road to public office, but it is just the beginning.

Rigorous reporting requirements for campaign finances – loans, gifts and donations – are enforced through three reporting periods, from the beginning of a candidacy and extending past election day, Harmer said.

She said even after a race is done and winners are declared, reporting requirements apply for candidates until they’ve spent every last dollar (their campaign fund reaches $0).

“Generally, candidates are really good about it,” Harmer said. “We’re really clear about those dates, we put it out there. We remind them every time they make a filing when their next filing is due.”

She said reporting requirements are available on the Colorado Secretary of State Office’s website, specifically the Fair Campaign Practice Act (FCPA) handbook.

In short, candidates must report any donation and expenditure that is valued at $20 or more, she said. Non-monetary contributions include donated space for an event or party, photographs for campaign materials and any other professional services rendered.

“They’re also required to report any loans that may come in for their campaign,” Harmer said. “And they’re all separate, kind of tax-style forms, where they have schedules and then a summary page with all that information.”

The first campaign finance report for City Council candidates is due at 3 p.m. March 14, according to the city’s election calendar. The second date is 3 p.m. March 30, and the third date is 3 p.m. May 6.

Past and anticipated local voter activity

The city of Durango holds biennial elections on odd-numbered years.

In 2021, the last City Council election, 13,742 ballots were distributed to Durango residents. Harmer said the exact number of ballots sent to voters changes each election because people move away and others move to town, among other things. Generally, the city expects to send out roughly the same number of ballots this year.

The La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s Office said there were 13,403 active voters living within city limits as of Thursday.

Colorado offers same-day voter registration, which means eligible electors can register to vote the day of an election.

With so many residents to provide election materials, election costs can ramp up, Harmer said. The city always budgets $55,000 for its municipal elections.

Eligible candidates for City Council must be at least 18 years old and have been a resident of Durango for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the April 4 election day, according to the city’s election webpage.

City Council members are restricted to serving two four-year terms. City councilors earn $867 per month – or $10,404 per year, in addition to medical, dental and vision benefits, according to the city. The mayor, an honorary rotating position, earns a little more at $1,117 per month.

The city must send ballots sometime between March 13-20.


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