By Ruthanne Johnson
MONTE VISTA—Republican candidate for Colorado District Attorney George Brauchler met with a small group of constituents on Aug. 9 at Mountain View Restaurant. His campaign trail had taken him through Montrose, Ridgeway, Telluride, Durango and Cortez before arriving in Monte Vista to share his vision for attorney general if elected.
Goals discussed during the meeting included instilling a more bipartisanship model to the attorney general’s office, bringing more transparency to the office and developing regional task forces to enhance support for the state’s 22 judicial districts.
Brauchler is the current district attorney for the 18th Judicial District and he has been endorsed by more than 40 sheriffs across the state and two-thirds of the DAs. His opponent, Paul Weiser, has been endorsed by fellow democrat John Hickenlooper. Weiser also served in President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice as deputy assistant attorney general.
For nearly two decades, Brauchler has been one of Colorado’s highest profile attorneys. He’s been a criminal defense lawyer, plaintiffs’ attorney and civil defense attorney. He’s worked on trials at the municipal, state, federal and military levels. And he’s prosecuted some of the biggest cases in Colorado, including against the men who sold a semi-automatic weapon to the Columbine shooters and the 2012 Aurora Theater killer. “I’ve been a guardian, defender and protector of our people, laws and constitution for my entire career,” he said.
Since taking office as DA of the 18th Judicial District---which serves about one million Coloradoans in Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties— Brauchler has created new units to fight domestic violence, elder abuse and economic crimes. He has expanded the district’s special victims’ unit to include adult victims and created a cold case unit to tackle some 200 unsolved murders. “We’ve since held seven men accountable for murders they otherwise would be walking around free on,” he said.
Another success has been increasing the number of veterans working for the DA’s office to more than 10 percent of the total number of prosecutors.
Brauchler said one thing he would like to do if elected is create regional task forces as a way of supporting each of Colorado’s judicial districts. But rather than task force members living and operating out of Denver, they would live in their assigned district. “We subscribe to this 1860’s version of state government,” Brauchler said, “where every agency has to be a horse and carriage ride away from the gold dome in Denver … I would want these folks living in these communities as an extension of the attorney general’s office.”
Another goal if elected is to build expiration dates for some of Colorado’s laws. “One of Thomas Jefferson’s ideas from letters he wrote to Madison was how the dead have too much influence over the living,” Brauchler said. “I would like to see us build in a process where every new law terminates after a set time.” The legislature would reconvene to debate whether or not that law is worth keeping after seeing it in practice. “That way every generation has their fingerprints on the laws, which affect them.” One example might be a generation looking differently at drug possession, mandatory sentencing or oil and gas.
John Noffsker, republican candidate for Rio Grande County Commissioner, raised his concern. “But sometimes rural counties need stability,” he said, “and in terms of legislation, we often find ourselves underrepresented because we don’t have the numbers.”
That can translate into “tyranny of the majority,” Noffsker added, especially for rural communities, where outside ideas can have a negative impact on the community. Water rights might be one example. “I am not against bikes, but the bikes lanes in Monte Vista are another example, which are a nightmare.”
Brauchler responded that from a self-governing standpoint, the will of the people has value even if everyone doesn’t agree. “As an example. I didn’t want Amendment 64 (cannabis) in our constitution. But 55 percent of Coloradoans voted to add it into the constitution,” he said. “If you’re a rule of law person, the only right answer is to say, ‘I am going to defend the spirit of that law and try to protect us from bad things that flow out of it.’”
The attorney general, Brauchler explained, is chief enforcer of Colorado’s state laws and constitution and the attorney for every aspect of state government, except for the legislature. Too often, he said, law enforcement offices have been used to push political agendas. “Once you take over the office, there are no republican or democratic victims. There are only Coloradoans. I want to restore that integrity and enforce the rule of law. I want to do the right thing independent of whether the republicans or democrats like it.”
Brauchler cautioned voters to be leery of attorney general candidates who promise too much, like fixing healthcare or bringing broadband to your county. “That’s not what the attorney general is elected to do. The attorney general is elected to enforce state laws and defend the constitution of the people who are in the state through those laws.”