by Sheridan Block
A movement to recall District 59 State Representative Mike McLachlan is underway, as the San Juan Freedom Defense Committee began circulating petitions throughout District 59 on Monday.
“The recall of Rep. McLachlan is our best opportunity to demonstrate to politicians across Colorado and the country that ‘We the People’ don’t have to wait until the next election when they step over the line,” the group wrote in a blog post on their website recallmikemclachlan.com. “This will be a powerful message and set an example for other communities to take similar action when our rights are infringed.”
McLachlan was not available for comment to the Plaindealer. According to Megan Dubray, Deputy Communications Director for the Majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, McLachlan has been hospitalized in Denver since Mar. 18. Dubray did not know the reason he is in the hospital.
The petition, which the committee filed with the Colorado Secretary of State on Mar. 5, was approved last Friday. The challenge the committee now faces is getting the 10,587 signatures needed by the May 21 deadline to submit to the Secretary of State for verification to force a special recall election.
If the committee is successful in gathering signatures and having them verified, an election will be held in August and voters will vote in favor of or against the recall as well as for a replacement if the recall succeeds. Ouray County Clerk Michelle Nauer said on Tuesday she did not know if the county would have to absorb the cost of an election or if it would be reimbursed.
When asked if the petition had a chance of success, former State Representative J. Paul Brown said, “It’s an uphill battle.” McLachlan, a Democrat, defeated Brown, the Republican incumbent, in November. Brown said he has spoken with a few members of the group and described them as “pretty determined.”
“They need to get (signatures representing) 25 percent of those who voted,” he said. “That’s 50 percent of those who voted for me. That’s going to take a lot.”
Brown said he is not part of the recall movement. Should the group collect enough signatures, however, he will petition to be on the ballot in August.
Ouray County Democratic Party Chair John Hollrah said, "This is a fringe group that's already exhibited disgusting behavior by heckling and jeering at an elected official who has been a good representative and in office for only a few months...They are distracting attention from the good issues the legislature needs to be working on, like water and education."
According to a report in the Durango Herald, McLachlan said he has received threatening and disparaging emails against his family.
“I’m not going to let them bully me. I’m not going to let them hold out a recall as a way to make me abandon the principles that I stand for and the reasons people elected me,” he told the Herald.
At the Club 20 meeting this past Saturday, Brown spoke with a representative of McLachlan’s who was filling in during his absence. Brown said he was told McLachlan had surgery. He also said a McLachlan family member relayed that the surgery went well.
Time is ticking now for the San Juan Freedom Defense Committee to collect signatures. The group printed recall petitions and distributed them to groups they’ve coordinated with in Bayfield, Durango, Gunnison, Lake City and Pagosa Springs.
Petitions in Ouray and Ridgway will be circulated next week. No location has been determined yet in Ouray, but interested parties can contact Jim Buske at 608-692-7816 for more information. Jack Flowers will be distributing petitions in Ridgway and can be reached at 970-275-1912.