AG nominee focuses on rural areas, connecting Colorado | SummitDaily.com

AG nominee focuses on rural areas, connecting Colorado

George Brauchler is a Colorado kid, and he's looking to bring his state back together. That's the pervasive message that Brauchler, the republican nominee for state attorney general, is trying to emphasize as he makes his final push for votes ahead of this November's election.

"I intend to be the attorney general for the entire state of Colorado," said Brauchler in a phone interview with the Summit Daily earlier this week. "I have never lived in a state that has lived more divided. Not just by politics, though that's certainly obvious, but geographically. Every place I've gone outside the metro area Coloradans have repeatedly told me, regardless of party, that they feel like they're a second Colorado. An afterthought. That every policy discussion at the state level begins and ends with how this will affect Denver or Boulder. I'm not that guy."

Brauchler grew up in Lakewood where he attended Bear Creek High School. He subsequently attended the University of Colorado at Boulder where he earned degrees in economics and political science, and later returned to CU for law school. After school he took on an internship and later a full-time job at the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. A reserve officer in the army, he was called to active duty and deployed to Iraq following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He still serves as an Army colonel for the National Guard as well as an appointed state judge advocate, working as an operations legal adviser at U.S. Northern Command during natural disasters like Hurricane Florence.

He ran for district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in 2012 and quickly rose to notoriety prosecuting the Aurora theater shooter in 2014. But earlier this year Brauchler decided to turn his sights toward the state attorney general's seat, hoping to return what he sees as an ever changing office to its original function.

"What we're seeing is a trend towards elevating and weaponizing these positions to the point where they're like third U.S. senators because of the impact their decisions can have, and how much damage they can do to an administration from the state and federal level," said Brauchler, reaffirming one of his major campaign points.

"The trend you're seeing, and it's not just Democrats, is a willingness to engage in legislation through litigation. I don't think that's the right answer for Colorado, and I know it's not the job of the attorney general."

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Brauchler voiced a strong concern about electing an "activist" attorney general, instead saying that policy decisions should be left to the governor and other legislative bodies, and not to the attorney general.

"The last thing in the world government at any level needs is another political activist and another policy maker," he said. "I don't intent to be an activist or even a Republican in office. I intend to be an attorney general for the whole state."

Brauchler went on to define the role he would take and outlined his major priorities to tackle if elected to office. He highlighted drug enforcement, federal government overreach and water rights among other issues facing the attorney general's office.

Expansion to all of Colorado

One of Brauchler's more notable talking points throughout his campaign has been his desire to decentralize the state attorney general's office by creating regional offices around the state.

"I've proposed creating regional offices that are in different parts of the state to provide Coloradans opportunities to have face time with the office, and let us use some of that $80 million budget and push it back out to the places that need it most," said Brauchler.

Brauchler continued to say that regional offices would not only work to bridge the gap between metro and rural areas of the state, but would also provide good paying government jobs to new economies. Perhaps most importantly, he feels that the expansion would create better resources for smaller towns to tackle lower level environmental crimes, as well as revamp the fight against illicit drug use and distribution.

Drug use and Trafficking

Brauchler cited black market marijuana grows, the opioid epidemic and the resurgence of methamphetamines as major issues facing the office, in part because of a lack of law enforcement resources in rural areas. This is one area where he hopes creating regional offices will be of use.

"The black market marijuana grows are exploding," said Brauchler. "They have figured out that in the rural areas you have a lot more square mileage than law enforcement officers. Every place that I've gone outside the metro area, they've told me that if they had more resources we could tackle more of the resurgent meth problems and black market marijuana."

Brauchler said he wouldn't commit to any drug enforcement policies until he has a chance to look over the specific data private to the attorney general's office. But he did say that he was willing to stand on a soapbox and push for more effective control measures on the southern border with Mexico. He also noted that he would lead a push against pharmaceutical companies who use fraud or deceit to market known dangerous drugs to doctors and individuals.

Federal Overreach

Brauchler made his stance on fighting federal government overreaching very clear, saying that he would fight for state rights in areas where he's able, but defer to the federal government on matters of exclusive federal jurisdiction.

For example, Brauchler said that he would use whatever tools he has at his disposal to fight against federal interference in recreational marijuana regulation because of its standing in the Colorado Constitution. He noted however, that he would defer to federal agencies with issues such as cooperation with federal immigration authorities because it's a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction.

"We're in a place where you see people saying we don't like the immigrations laws, so let's figure out a way to defeat it or thwart it," said Brauchler. "There are only three things we can do with our laws: enforce them, amend them, or repeal them. There's no fourth option of ignoring it. That's why the sanctuary city piece, as much as I don't want to see the separation of families or the deportation of kids who only know this as their home, it doesn't make sense to me to say let's just ignore the law."

Water and the Environment

Brauchler emphasized that he intends to rigorously defend the state against polluters as well as the water compacts the state has in place, but warned against "environmental elitists" trying to slow development and growth in Colorado.

He voiced that the state needs strong leadership in continued negotiations on water rights, but also noted that going too far could have catastrophic results for the state.

"The point has been made and it's been echoed everywhere," said Brauchler. "The biggest consumers of water do the least to conserve it, and do the least to show they even care how it's impacting farmers, ranchers and the Western Slope. I think there's some validity to that. But I caution going too far down the road, crossing our arms and saying we're done giving out water. If the lower basin states take us to the Supreme Court, I think Colorado will lose. I think we have to continue to negotiate from as much of a position of strength as we can, and in goodwill to develop those relationships. I've got absolute confidence I can do that."

Opponent Phil Wiser

Brauchler lauded his opponent in the race, Democrat Phil Wiser, for his intelligence and history of accomplishments under the Obama Administration and as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also applauded his efforts as the dean of the University of Colorado Law School, Brauchler's alma mater.

He did, however, cite Wiser's lack of experience in the courtroom and activist spirit as reasons to doubt his effectiveness in the office.

"At the end of the day this is not a job for a first time attorney. This is not a job for on-the-clock training," said Brauchler.

In what's sure to be a lively and competitive race until the end, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to elect their choice for the next attorney general on Nov. 6.