Candidacy: House District 59 Colorado State Representative, Democrat
Education: B.A., 1970, Southern Colorado State University (degree in Political Science); J. D., 1973, University of Arizona College of Law
Occupation: Attorney, self-employed
Family: Wife and two kids; lives in Durango
Prior Government Experience: La Plata County Prosecutor, 1974-1976; La Plata County Attorney, 1995-1998 and Colorado Solicitor General, 1999-2000
Although this is his first time running for public office, one would never peg Mike McLachlan for a political rookie. In the midst of one of the most closely watched Colorado state house races of the 2012 election, he has proven to be an adept, aggressive candidate, drawing a stark contrast between himself and opponent J. Paul Brown on such politically charged issues as civil unions, reproductive rights, the environment, and the role of government in society.
“You’re looking at a complete contrast in what people do when they are elected to the state legislature,” McLachlan said at a candidate’s forum in Ouray in early October.
If elected, McLachlan has said he will be a “Western Slope Democrat” who will put the issues of his district before party politics. He describes himself as a centrist, “someone who can work both sides of the aisle and get things done.”
As proof, he points to his experience as Colorado Solicitor General, a position to which he was appointed in 1999 by then-Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar. During his appointment, he successfully argued the constitutionality of the Colorado’s women’s health- clinic shield law before the U.S. Supreme Court. “I am a person who has dealt with conflict and confrontation,” he said. “I have been able to resolve countless disputes, which will bode well if I am elected.”
McLachlan, a 38-year resident of La Plata County, announced his candidacy for HD 59 in early February 2012. He has won considerable financial support from private donors. “Even Republicans have been donating to my campaign,” he said. Democratic super PACS, meanwhile, have spent well over $100,000 on cable advertising and door-to-door canvassing on McLachlan’s behalf.
McLachlan grew up in a military family (his father was a World War II fighter pilot and U.S. Air Force officer) and served as a Marine Corporal in the Vietnam War. Veterans’ issues are close to the candidate’s heart. If elected, he would support the HIRE Colorado Plan, introduced in 2012, which would give Colorado veterans a better shot at winning local jobs. He would also support expanding opportunities for vets to get an affordable college education in Colorado, and would work to establish more justice courts in the state that are for veterans only. “It’s something that is really needed,” he said.
Education is another central theme of McLachlan’s campaign. “I am a complete supporter of all forms of public education,” he said. “My long-term goals would be to secure more funding and be more efficient in our schools.” He values early childhood programs like Head Start, and stresses the importance of making college more accessible and affordable.
McLachlan, a lifelong angler, said he is excited about the recent reapportionment of HD 59, which now makes it “the purest mountain district in the state.”
“We have the most unique and beautiful environment,” he said. “Obviously, our water and other natural resources need to be completely protected. It’s a massive responsibility.”
• Supports proper funding of K-12 education and reduced class sizes.
• Supports veterans rights, including health care, reduced tuition at Colorado colleges and universities, and tax breaks for the local small businesses that hire them.
• Supports an all-of-the-above energy plan for the state of Colorado, including renewable energy and the safe development of clean burning natural gas.
• Supports introducing fracking regulations to protect groundwater quality.
• Supports health care reform.
• Is pro-choice and supports women’s rights to affordable contraceptives and health screenings.
• Supports the rights of gun owners.
• Supports broadband accessibility for all Colorado residents.
• Supports protecting Western Slope water from going to the Front Range
• Supports civil unions.
• Supports unionization rights for state employees.
Key endorsements: McLachlan has won the endorsement of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Organizations that have thrown their support behind McLachlan’s candidacy include Colorado Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Colorado Association of School Executives and Planned Parenthood.
Kudos: McLachlan was named one of “The Best Lawyers in America” for the past 10 years.