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Many La Plata County positions uncontested in primary

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Monday, June 18, 2018 3:41 PM

Some parts of this year's primary ballot for La Plata County voters will feel less like a multiple-choice test and more like an exercise in filling in oval circles.

That's because ballots for both major parties are chock full of uncontested races, including eight on the Democratic ballot and 12 on the Republican ballot. By contrast, there are only five contested races for Democrats and two contested races for Republicans.

And for local races, which include county offices, there is only one contested race: the Democratic primary for La Plata County treasurer. Otherwise, candidates will advance to the General Election in November, where they will compete against candidates from opposing parties.

Ballots were mailed to voters in the middle of June, and the primary election is June 26. This close to the election, ballots should be dropped off in a ballot box to be sure it is counted.

Unaffiliated voters are able to vote for the first time in this year's primary election. They can vote in only one party's primary. Unaffiliated voters make up more than a third of registered voters in La Plata County.

Here's a look at local uncontested candidates who will appear on this year's primary ballots:

La Plata County sheriff Charles Hamby, a Republican, who has law enforcement experience from the city level up to the federal level, said it is important for the sheriff to keep politics out of the office.

Hamby wants to move away from sheriff's deputies relying on statistics and focus more holistically on serving the whole county. He says rural areas will get as much attention as urban areas under his leadership.

Hamby also says he would be fiscally responsible as county sheriff. The candidate says a goal is to expand volunteer opportunities for those who want to support law enforcement.

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Sean Smith, the Democrat incumbent, also said the sheriff should not be a partisan position.

If re-elected, Smith hopes to recruit and retain well-qualified employees through competitive pay. He said this could be a challenge because of the county's current financial struggles.. He also would like to see more leadership and training development for young people coming into law enforcement.

Smith wants to make the La Plata County Sheriff's Office more active within the community and build a dialogue by attending meetings and hosting events.

"Judge us by what we're doing, not what you hear on Facebook," he said. "The Sheriff's Office is there for you."

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Dean Mize is running as an unaffiliated candidate, which means he will not appear on a ballot for the primary election. He will be on the General Election ballot only if he collects 448 petition signatures by July 12, said La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker.

Mize said he is running on a platform of serving residents rather than political parties, by not falling into partisan rhetoric. Rather, he would focus on enforcing laws.

He said he plans to make the county a place where people want to continue to live by being friendly and understanding. He said he will take the approach of listening to people and caring about what they have to say.

Mize is currently a deputy for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

La Plata County commissioner Brad Blake, the Republican incumbent, said revising the land-use code is the major issue going forward for county commissioners.

With county revenues down, Blake said he would like to make land-use codes welcoming to businesses.

He said he makes decisions based on long-term feasibility.

"When I make decisions as county commissioner, I really try to look and say to myself, 'Is this going to be good for La Plata County for the next 30 years?'" he said.

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Clyde Church, a Democrat, said his platform hits on education and fire mitigation.

He would like to improve literacy as well and high school graduation rates. There is a program which provides dictionaries to kids, he said.

The county is no stranger to wildfires, so Church said he wants to work with organizations such as FireWise to protect homes and subdivisions from wildfires.

Land-use codes should be based on what each individual planning district wants, he said.

"If a district doesn't really want to be zoned, they don't have to be," he said. "It needs to be a common-sense approach with lots and lots of public input."

Church said he would be a steward to the environment because the outdoors is what draws tourists to the area. He'd like to work with officials in New Mexico on ways to reduce methane seeping into the atmosphere.

La Plata County treasurerColton Black, a Republican, said he would like to diversify La Plata County's investment portfolio. With oil and gas revenue being down, he said with his background in investment banking he could make sure investments are structured in a way that the county gets more in return.

If elected, Black said he will review how efficiently the Treasurer's Office operates, and take accountability for every penny that falls under the office's purview.

"I'm a little bit skeptical that they're trying to use that as a back door around taking a tax increase to the voters, and they're going to use regulation as a way to raise people's property taxes by using zoning and other regulatory options there to adjust people's property assessments," he said.

"As treasurer, I would stand guard to make sure that isn't done."

Black will face either incumbent Allison Aichele or Tim Walsworth in the General Election.

La Plata County coroner Jann Smith, a Republican incumbent, said she hopes to find a new location other than Hood Mortuary to perform autopsies. She also would like to keep up on training for herself and her staff.

"Not only do I help take care of the deceased individual and do what I need for them, I help the family get started on the line they need to go down because there's no book that comes and says, 'This is what you do,'" she said.

rsimonovich@durangoherald.com

How to vote

Primary ballots were mailed June 6 to residents in La Plata County. Ballots should be returned by mail no later than June 19. Otherwise, residents can use one of four ballot drop-off boxes:

La Plata County Clerk and Recorder's Office, 98 Everett St., Suite C, in Durango.La Plata County Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave., in Durango.Farmers Fresh Market, 535 Goddard Ave., in Ignacio.Bayfield Town Hall, 1199 Bayfield Parkway, in Bayfield.All three centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 26, Election Day.

About 800 primary election ballots were delivered Wednesday to homes along U.S. Highway 550 that are now evacuated, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

Another 250 ballots could not be delivered because of the evacuations, and they were held for residents at the Durango Post Office, said David Rupert, a spokesman with the U.S. Postal Service.

Those in need of a ballot can request a replacement at one of three voter service and polling centers.

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