McLachlan filed his paperwork with the Secretary of State in early February and formally announced his candidacy to a crowd of supporters in Durango last Thursday, Feb. 9.
There has been widespread speculation for some time now that McLachlan would throw his hat in the race for the state house seat currently occupied by J. Paul Brown, a Republican from Ignacio. The Colorado Democratic Party has indicated that ousting the ultra-conservative Brown is one of its top priorities in November.
One prominent Durango democrat described McLachlan as the party’s “anointed one” to contest Brown.
“I wasn’t recruited,” McLachlan clarified of his candidacy. “I have been talking about this for a long time. I did have communication with some of the party people at the state level and here in La Plata County who have been talking to me since last summer. Some wanted me to come out (as a candidate) a lot earlier. But I didn’t want to make a decision until the district was finalized in December. I was always going to get into the race; it was just a question of timing.”
Timing became a hot-button issue in late January, when the Silverton-based Pat Swonger, who is also vying for the Democratic nomination for House District 59, was disqualified from participating in the assembly process by the Colorado Democratic Party because he missed the deadline to register as a Democrat by a single day.
Swonger, a former Republican, has since announced he will petition his way into the June Democratic primary by gathering 1,000 signatures from registered Democrats in the district – an effort which has already gotten underway.
McLachlan, meanwhile, chooses to couch his own candidacy simply in terms of facing off against the Republican incumbent.
“I’m running my campaign against J. Paul Brown,” McLachlan said in an interview on Tuesday this week. “I’ve met Pat. I like Pat. I don’t have anything negative or positive to say about him, but I need to get my campaign going, so that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m running against J. Paul Brown because he represents an extreme faction within his own party. He is ultra-conservative and narrow-minded, and not a very effective voice in the state legislature.”
McLachlan describes himself, on the other hand, as “very much a centrist, someone who can work both sides of the aisle and get things done. I can get Republicans, Democrats and Independents to vote for me. We need to have a practical, common sense person and not a narrow-minded ideological person in the legislature.”
McLachlan said he is excited about the reapportionment of Colorado’s House District 59, which now makes it “the purest mountain district in the state.” The district encompasses Archuleta, La Plata, Hinsdale, San Juan, Ouray counties, and the southern half of Gunnison County – including the City of Gunnison and the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Fort Lewis and Western State Colleges are both within the district.
A lifelong angler, McLachlan takes special pride in the district’s rivers and abundant natural beauty. “We have the most unique and beautiful environment in state,” he said. “Obviously, our water and other natural resources need to be completely protected. It’s a massive responsibility.”
McLachlan is pro-choice candidate who supports retaining women’s rights to reproductive freedom. “I am a latter day feminist,” he clarified. “Having a daughter makes you realize the barriers and discrimination women face.”
Originally from Lincoln, Neb., McLachlan is a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran with a legal career that spans almost four decades, most of it as a resident of La Plata County where he has built a successful small business around his law practice specializing in personal injury.
According to a biographical statement on his website, mclachlanforcolorado.com, career highlights include a stint as Colorado’s Solicitor General under then-Attorney General Ken Salazar, during which he successfully argued the constitutionality of Colorado’s women’s health clinic shield law before the U.S. Supreme Court. He recently served as president of the Commission of Judicial Performance for the 6th Judicial District. McLachlan’s civic efforts involve service on the Southern Ute Tribe – State of Colorado Environmental Control Commission.
A lifelong Democrat, McLachlan and his wife Barbara have two adult children, Brian and Kathryn.