Unaffiliated candidates to appear on November ballot in La Plata County
For first time, three make it in one election cycle
La Plata County’s three unaffiliated candidates secured their place on the November ballot this week.
Jack Turner, Tiffany Lee and Erin Hutchins each collected enough signatures to earn their way onto the ballot, marking the first time La Plata County has had three independent candidates in an election cycle.
Unaffiliated candidates must petition onto November’s ballot and must meet a 2% threshold based on total number of votes cast for the office during the previous election cycle.
Turner, who is running for county commissioner in District 1, had 966 accepted signatures when 555 were needed. Lee, who is running unopposed for county clerk and recorder, had 593 accepted signatures when 415 were needed; and Hutchins, who is running for county treasurer, accrued a total of 771 accepted signatures when 551 were needed.
Candidates often have some of their collected signatures rejected as a result of address and name inaccuracies.
“I would love to see positions like mine, assessor, treasurer, surveyor, coroner or sheriff, become where we’re not having to run by party,” said Lee, who is the current county clerk. “... You just are strictly reading off your resume.”
Hutchins, who is running against Democratic incumbent Allison Aichele, relayed the same message and is hoping her candidacy can pave the way for more unaffiliated candidates in the future.
Her plan is to commit to community outreach in the upcoming weeks and listen to the concerns of the people. From what she’s heard, customer service has been a recurring issue with the county treasurer’s office.
“We get a lot of complaints in our office about the responsiveness of that office, and then also dealing with the office when there are issues,” said Hutchins, who currently works as an election administrator in the clerk’s office. “So there are just a lot of concerns about the customer service, and as elected officials, we’re here to serve the public.”
Hutchins said people are ready to elect officials based on resume, experiences and the values upheld by the candidate regardless of political affiliation.
Turner ran for county commissioner in District 2 in 2020 and lost to Democrat Marsha Porter-Norton by 166 votes. Turner learned from his previous campaign that hard work is necessary to be successful.
“Quite honestly, I’ve not run a successful campaign yet. We did really well. We got 16,000 votes last time and nearly won,” he said. “But we lost to a really qualified competitor. And she’s doing a great job.”
Turner is not against party affiliations but would like to see more citizens involved in seeking office and realize they don’t need a political party to do so.
“I’m not knocking the parties. I mean, they serve a function, and there’s lots of good people,” he said. “The question I’m challenging is why should they have a monopoly on all elected offices?”