Colorado attorney general candidates argue their case
July 22, 2018
Editor's note: The Glenwood Springs Post Independent had the opportunity to sit down with the Republican and Democrat candidates running for Colorado attorney general, George Brauchler and Phil Weiser, respectively, who were both in Glenwood Springs last week. We offer a two-part profile of the candidates and their responses to some key issues, beginning today with Brauchler.
George Brauchler grew up in Lakewood. The Republican candidate vying for the seat of Colorado attorney general holds a degree in economics and political science from the University of Colorado-Boulder, as well as a law degree from CU. Currently, Brauchler works as the District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District.
Brauchler since 9/11 served as the chief military justice for Fort Carson and, later, for the U.S. Division-North, 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, Iraq. A colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard, Brauchler, in that capacity, among other callings, acts as a legal adviser for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
Federal government oversight
Brauchler told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, until President Barack Obama and his successor, President Donald Trump, AG races, frankly, were "sleepy kind of seats where (attorney generals) just got the job of executing the laws and defending the constitution."
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According to Brauchler, over the course of the Obama administration's eight years in the West Wing, 47 bipartisan lawsuits were filed against the federal government.
"In almost every single one, it was to push back against federal overreach," Brauchler said. "And, then, what you've seen in the last 18 months is that all Democrat AGs have gotten together and filed more than 47 lawsuits … We're now in a place where (Democratic AGs) have eclipsed in 18 months what was done in eight years under President Obama, but it's for a different reason. It is not to push back on federal overreach, but to push back on federal under reach."
Ultimately, Brauchler said, "I want the democratic portions of our government to have the greatest say. Not judges, not bureaucrats, I want Congress, I want the Legislature, I want public initiative (to say) they're the ones that should be weighing in on these giant issues, that should not be determined by agencies," Brauchler said.
Colorado's Public Lands
"I want public lands in public hands; I want that to be the rule. I'm not looking to cave in on public lands and start alienating them and selling them off," Brauchler said.
The attorney general candidate insisted he wanted less Washington, D.C., and more Colorado.
"No matter how anybody feels about the current president or the last president, the lesson that we should be learning as Coloradans about these last two administrations is we fare better the more we're in charge of us; and the less people who ain't from here, don't have a vested interest in here, don't live here, won't ever live here, had in putting their fingerprint on the state of Colorado. That's what makes Colorado great."
A vehement critic of states taking advantage of Colorado's water, Brauchler told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, "I think as Coloradans we have to accept that we can't conserve our way out of this problem, cannot do it."
While Brauchler, "no doubt about it," believes in the conservation of Colorado's water, the candidate also said, "We have to figure out a way to store more of the water that is rightfully ours."
Brauchler continued, "If there is one thing that has been emphasized to me everywhere I've gone, outside of the metro area, it's that people are sick and tired of the Denver metro area laying claim to more water than they think they are entitled to."
"The idea here is, I don't want to take your guns from you; I don't want you to have them while you are extremely and dangerously mentally ill," Brauchler said, referencing an effort he supported.
The Republican, who offered that he often carries a concealed firearm in the form of handguns, took a lot of heat himself from the NRA and his own party for that position.
"That was one time I thought, politics be damned, I am going to do what I think is right for this community," he said.
"We are fighting a losing battle against opioids," Brauchler said. "We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem and we are not going to incarcerate our way out of this problem, and we don't right now.
"I think it's an urban legend that we are locking up people … who are addicted to drugs," he said.
Brauchler emphasized how the medical community, which he believes has done a much better job of assessing the appropriate number of pills for patients, must continue down that path. The Republican also mounted some of the blame on the federal government and its ways of determining the effectiveness of health care facilities.
Realistically, Brauchler said, "There aren't a lot of tools in the attorney general's toolbox to sort of tweak and fix these big policy issues, especially when we've taken education and we've really distilled it down to the localities. And that's good."
While not an original supporter of Amendment 64 — the ballot measure which Coloradans voted in favor of to legalize recreational marijuana by a margin of 266,246 votes in 2012 — Brauchler said he now accepts it as law and insists he will defend the Colorado voters' decision if elected as the next attorney general.
"We had the debate; 55 percent of Colorado voters put it in our Constitution and when that happens, the only response for someone who's truly committed to the rule of law, and I am, is to say we're going to enforce the spirit of that law and we are going to protect our community and our families and our neighborhoods from the bad stuff that flows from regulated marijuana."
According to Brauchler, the "bad stuff" includes United States Attorney General Jess Sessions' desire for the U.S. Department of Justice to flex its federal muscles in enforcing federal law over Colorado's law.
"No way," the Republican candidate said. "(Colorado's attorney general) should be pushing back hard on that and saying, 'Hang on, no matter what you think about this, we trust us to govern us more than we trust you to govern us."'