Westendorff wins; Hotter, Lachelt tie
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
Democrat Julie Westendorff appeared to have narrowly won the race for the District 3 county commissioner seat, according to unofficial results.
Meanwhile, the race between Gwen Lachelt and Republican incumbent Kellie Hotter for District 2 was too close to call as Lachelt led by a mere 78 votes.
With 30 of the county’s 30 precincts reporting, Westendorff had received 13,821 votes to Republican Harry Baxstrom’s 13,577 votes – a difference of 244 votes.
Lachelt, meanwhile, had received 13,804 votes, while Hotter has received 13,726, putting the two neck and neck.
According to La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker, around 1,000 provisional ballot had been cast and would be counted in the next couple of days.
Tuesday’s race was a chance for Democrats to tip the political balance on the three-person board of commissioners after two years with a Republican majority.
Commissioner candidates run by district, but are elected at-large. The race remained close until late Tuesday night when the final votes were counted.
The county commission races followed different themes and trajectories throughout the election season. District 3 candidates Westendorff and Baxstrom adopted decidedly moderate platforms on issues such as comprehensive planning, fiscal belt-tightening and business friendliness in the county.
At one point late in the election season, Westendorff accused Baxstrom of adopting views that were more and more like hers.
No such accusation was made among the District 2 candidates. Voters were presented with a clear distinction between Lachelt and Hotter, the incumbent, as the candidates repeatedly emphasized their divergent backgrounds, priorities and visions for the county.
Planning started out and remained a central issue in both commissioner races. Much of the focus emanated from commissioners’ decision to shelve a new county comprehensive plan in December.
Lachelt took aim at Hotter’s vote not to adopt the plan, calling her decision fiscally irresponsible after the county spent more than $700,000 and two years of work into the plan. Lachelt also criticized Hotter’s vote against adopting a climate and energy action plan, which the county and city pitched in $60,000 to create.
SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald