Colorado attorney general candidates differ on office’s role at


GRAND JUNCTION — Colorado’s two candidates for attorney general would bring sharply different ideas to the role the state’s attorney general should play in setting policy.

Those differences emerged Saturday when Democrat Phil Weiser and Republican George Brauchler faced off on a debate stage at the Club 20 gathering in Grand Junction. Weiser, a former dean of the University of Colorado law school, is far more comfortable laying out sharp policy positions. Brauchler, the district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, stressed the need for the attorney general to protect the state and ensure that laws and constitutional principles are followed.

That theme emerged during the 45-minute event in front of about 200 people. For example, Weiser said he supports the ballot measure that caps interest rates for payday loans and asked Brauchler if he supports it as well.

“I’m not sure that’s an AG question,” Brauchler said, adding that he’d need to look at the issue more. “It feels like a policy question.”

Weiser also asked Brauchler about rural broadband, including Club 20’s stance on the issue. Brauchler said he supports it, but noted that’s a policy issue.

“Unless you can carry it out on your back and lay the cable yourself, the AG doesn’t have a role,” he said.

The seat is open. Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is exiting office after making an unsuccessful bid for her party’s nomination for governor earlier this year.

The debate took place in front of a Western Slope audience that gathered to hear from candidates in statewide and regional races. The Club 20 debates are a tradition in Colorado politics.

Weiser’s background includes clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also worked in President Barack Obama’s administration in two roles: with the Justice Department on antitrust issues and as a senior adviser on technology and innovation in the White House.

Brauchler, the prosecutor of the Aurora theater shooter, became district attorney in 2013 in the district that encompasses Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. He’s also a colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard and was chief of military justice for the 4th Infantry Division during a 2011 deployment to Iraq.

On water, the candidates were asked about how to balance the needs of the Western Slope with the booming Front Range.

Brauchler said he would “fight to defend” water compacts and enforce the law.

Weiser spoke about the need for regulations and guidelines for the Colorado River Compact.

“I want Colorado to be a leader internationally on water management, and we can do that,” Weiser said.

Brauchler spoke up, saying that the attorney general “is not a policymaker, the Legislature is.”

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