Recall Redux: Most Expensive State House Race In Colorado Comes Back To Gun Control

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Beyond Colorado’s headline-grabbing races for Senate and governor, the election for House District 59 is starting to generate its own news for being the most expensive race for the state house in Colorado — all thanks to tough new gun control laws passed in 2013.

The contest is between Democratic incumbent Mike McLachlan and Republican challenger J. Paul Brown for a small district centered around the rural city of Durango.

According to the Durango Herald, the race has attracted “a waterfall of money” from outside groups, to the tune of at least $718,000 in a market where media and advertising are much cheaper than urban centers along Colorado’s Front Range.

The reason? Mostly likely, it’s due to McLachlan’s support in 2013 for a slate of aggressive new gun control laws that led to the recall of two state senators and the resignation — in lieu of a recall vote — of a third.

Supporters of the Second Amendment have also targeted McLachlan for a recall, but they couldn’t collect the requisite number of signatures to force a special election against him.

Conservative groups seem determined to make an example of McLachlan during this election, and Democrats seem equally intent on keeping him in office.

“Republican-leaning groups have spent at least $219,655 on the race, the bulk of it — $197,178 — on ads attacking McLachlan,” the Herald reported. “Democrat-leaning groups have spent $238,500 on the race, with $131,000 going to ads in favor of McLachlan and $107,500 on ads knocking Brown.”

The paper reported that because of ambiguities in the campaign finance requirements, it’s difficult to tell where the money is coming from or, in fact, exactly how much has been spent.

But big bucks are certainly in play. Ads for the otherwise obscure house race have run on ESPN during Monday Night Football and on CNN.

The candidates themselves are uncomfortable with the wall-to-wall coverage, according to the Herald. McLachlan told the paper that one mailer supporting him “basically shows me single-handedly winning the Vietnam War.”

Others depict him as opposed to the Second Amendment because of his support for Colorado’s new gun laws. The most controversial require a background check for every firearms transfer, including between private parties, and limit the size of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.

The new laws were so contentious that their opponents successfully recalled two Democratic state senators, including the senate president, for supporting them. A third senator resigned rather than face an election so that the Democratic majority in the chamber could be preserved; a Democratic Party vacancy committee appointed her successor.

The race between the men is considered to be competitive. The two also faced off in 2012, with McLachlan beating Brown by just 2 points.

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