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Unaffiliated candidate Jack Turner a wildcard in La Plata County commissioner race

Will independent candidate pull more votes from Democratic or Republican voters?
Brad Blake, Clyde Church and Jack Turner are running for La Plata County commissioner in November 2022.

The three-way race between Jack Turner, Brad Blake and Clyde Church for District 1 county commissioner is perhaps the most intriguing La Plata County election this fall.

Turner moved to District 1 to run in the race after losing to Democratic candidate Marsha Porter-Norton by a slim margin of 166 votes in the District 2 commissioner race in 2020.

Church is the incumbent in District 1, which covers roughly the western half of La Plata County. He beat Blake, a Republican, by just 23 votes in the 2018 commissioner race.

Blake currently leads the candidates’ fundraising with more than $16,000 on hand, according to data from the Colorado secretary of state.

Turner has about $2,600 on hand, though he has raised more than $13,000 during the election cycle. Church has about $1,500 on hand. He has loaned his campaign $3,700, the only candidate to loan his campaign money.

Adding a third candidate to a previously razor-thin contest will likely cloud the race for Democrats and Republicans.

Anne Markward, chairwoman of the La Plata County Democrats, said her party has been planning for Turner to make the ballot and that he will likely pull voters from both parties.

“What will happen this time is anyone’s guess. I have no idea,” she said. “It’s going to be close one way or the other. It’s why we’re going to be working hard to get out all the votes we can.”

Dave Peters, chairman of the La Plata County GOP, sees a clear path to victory for Republicans, with Turner making little difference in the results.

“The bottom line is it’s whether Republicans turn out to vote,” Peters said. “... If we have a solid Republican turnout, I think that Brad easily wins.”

During the 2020 race for District 2 county commissioner, Turner ran as an independent against Porter-Norton, who ran as a Democrat. Peters said Republicans voted for Turner in that election because there was no Republican on the ballot, but he thinks GOP voters will be consistent in their vote for Blake come November.

Turner also likes his odds, even in a political system dominated by party candidates.

Turner aims to appeal to members of both parties by focusing on pressing local issues such as affordable housing, employment and homelessness.

Jack Turner, an unaffiliated candidate for La Plata County commissioner, hands in his box of signatures for his petition to appear on the fall ballot to Tiffany Lee, La Plata County clerk and recorder, on Thursday at Lee’s office in Bodo Park. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Turner has also gained confidence while collecting signatures for his petition as he has heard from voters disillusioned by both the Democratic and Republican parties.

“A lot of Democrats and Republicans are disappointed in some of the acrimony and bitterness and endless anger toward the other party, and agendas that are either pretty far left or pretty far right,” he said. “My sense is the majority of voters, regardless of how they’re registered, are kind of tired of it.”

Looking to capitalize on the frustration of party voters, Turner sees the potential for La Plata County’s first unaffiliated commissioner.

“I like my chances. In fact, I love my chances,” he said.


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