Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the debate’s host school, Community College of Denver.
The November election is just 14 days away, and the candidates for Colorado attorney general are charging hard into the Election Day final stretch. George Brauchler and Phil Weiser met yesterday for another debate in their final push for votes.
The debate, sponsored by the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and hosted at the Community College of Denver, focused on criminal justice issues and, again, the difference in the candidates’ views on the role of the attorney general.
Experience and activism are not partisan issues, Brauchler said following the debate. In speaking before a room filled with students, young voters and criminal defense attorneys, he emphasized his experience and high-profile endorsements — such as those from the Denver Post and La Prensa de Colorado newspapers — rather than his political party. When given the opportunity to ask a question of Weiser, he simply asked how long he had worked in the antitrust division of the Obama administration Department of Justice — nine months.
Weiser likewise pointed to the differences other than their political affiliations and said his campaign is focusing its message on rule of law in the final two weeks. In making a claim that the state needs an attorney general to act as a bulwark against what he said are illegal actions by the federal government, he highlighted other attorney general-led lawsuits against the federal government and the departures of high-level attorneys from the DOJ who quit because they felt they were asked to do something unconstitutional.
During the debate, the candidates were mostly agreeable on topics regarding how the office could support rural prosecutors as well as their commitment to defending legalized marijuana in the state —although Brauchler did specify he would assist federal prosecutors in cracking down on black market marijuana operations that aren’t in compliance with state laws. They both touched on attorney general involvement in federal lawsuits and the influence of dark money in the political race as well. Despite those topics, and the criminal law focus, much of the time was spent on discussing the role of policy in the office.
In response to a question asking whether the candidates would consider joining a lawsuit challenging immigrant family separation at the border, Brauchler emphasized the power of the attorney general within the borders of the state and downplayed the role of other state attorneys general in federal lawsuits.
“The attorney general is defined and limited by the authority that we give the attorney general through our statues our rules and regulations,” Brauchler said. He cautioned against electing an attorney general who would “tilt at every political windmill” for fear of what it would mean for the office for posterity.
Weiser responded by stressing that the federal lawsuits are within the power of the attorney general. “There’s no question under the law our state has standing and the legal ability to have our attorney general go into court and defend the Constitution,” he said.
The candidates again stressed their differences in their stance on policy in closing remarks. Weiser said he would be an attorney general who would represent the state against a federal government that is disregarding the rule of law. And although opposed to the idea of having an activist attorney general, Brauchler suggested he would be a balance to a Democratic governor by warning this November could make the first in his life that the state government would be of all one party.
The candidates will meet again tonight for a debate hosted by the Colorado Women’s Bar Association.