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McLachlan retains Colorado House District 59

Challenger Shelli Shaw falls behind by 12 points
Barbara McLachlan and Shelli Shaw

Democratic incumbent Barbara McLachlan earned an early lead on Tuesday evening and maintained it through the night, edging out first-time challenger Shelli Shaw, a Republican, in her fourth race for House District 59.

Twenty minutes before midnight, McLachlan said she received a call from the state Capital that the race was called in her favor.

Out of 44,694 votes cast, McLachlan had 25,405 votes, or 56.84% of the vote, compared with Shaw’s 19,289 votes.

She had 18,022 votes in La Plata County compared with Shaw’s 10,701 votes, and she had captured 335 votes in San Juan County versus Shaw’s 151 votes, according to Colorado Secretary of State election data.

Shaw managed to hold onto an advantage in Archuleta and Montezuma counties with 4,164 votes against McLachlan’s 3,418 votes in the Archuleta County and 4,273 votes compared with McLachlan’s 3,630 votes in Montezuma County. But as of Wednesday morning, McLachlan had a lead over Shaw by 6,116 votes statewide.

McLachlan said Tuesday she felt excited. She was traveling to Denver Wednesday for leadership elections in the state Legislator and a service for Rep. Hugh McKean, a Republican, who died on Oct. 30. After that, it is back to work.

“I have a lot of bills that are in progress and I have to have two of them done by mid-December. So I have to choose which bills I’m going to work on and get going on that,” she said.

McLachlan has held her seat representing Colorado House District 59 since 2016, when she challenged Republican incumbent J. Paul Brown and won by just 675 votes.

In the 2018 General Election, she came out victorious against independent candidate Paul Jones with exactly 5,000 more votes than him. In 2020, she defeated Republican Marilyn Harris by more than 5,500 votes.

McLachlan and Shaw banked on their extensive teaching backgrounds on the campaign trail. McLachlan is a retired schoolteacher with a 20-year teaching career at Durango High School.

McLachlan’s campaign touted bipartisan successes in passing legislation that allows nontraditional students to earn college credit while learning on the job and another bill that gets rid of unnecessary testing by eliminating statewide social studies assessment requirements.

Newcomer Shaw worked for nearly 20 years as a 10th grade English teacher and school district administrator in Katy, Texas, before moving to Durango in March 2021 to start Blue Spruce BnB.

During a debate against McLachlan at the La Plata County Fairgrounds in September, Shaw said her top priority was tackling the fentanyl crisis. She wanted to make possession of fentanyl a felony after a bill passed in 2019 making possession of up to 4 grams of many drugs, including fentanyl, a misdemeanor.

Shaw said education, crime and law enforcement also rank among her top priorities in a March interview with The Durango Herald. In regard to education, she said Colorado’s “Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education” passed in 2019, which prohibits the exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from sex education curriculum in public schools, is concerning and “is a little too far reaching.”

Shaw took a “pro-life” stance in her campaign and advocated for doing away with Colorado’s “Reproductive Health Equity Act” signed into law earlier this year. Her campaign called to do away with the law and replace it with one “that protects the mother, father and child and supports the adoption alternative.”

cburney@durangoherald.com

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