COLORADO- In a matter of weeks, Coloradans will be electing a new Attorney General. Republican George Brauchler will go up against Democrat Phil Weiser. Both candidates took part in KOAA News5’s THE State Debate on October 13th in Colorado Springs.
Brauchler is the current District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District which serves Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties, serving since 2013. The CU Boulder graduate is also a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who advises the NORTHCOM/NORAD on legal issues and served as the Chief of Military Justice for Fort Carson.
Phil Weiser is a professor at the University of Colorado where he previously served as Dean of the Law School. He’s also served in the administrations of Presidents Obama and Clinton, most recently as the Deputy Attorney General. Weiser describes himself as a “lawyer of the people” with experience in consumer advocacy.
Weiser says Colorado needs an Attorney General with broad experience, not just someone who has worked as a criminal prosecutor. During THE State Debate he touted his experience spearheading consumer protection cases under 2 presidential administrations. He summed up his opinion of whether to get involved in an issue based with two questions, “does it hurt people in Colorado” and “is the federal government doing something illegal.”
Brauchler argues it is nearsighted of his opponent to suggest he only has experience as a criminal prosecutor in the courtroom. He briefly mentioned his experience as a defense lawyer, counsel in civil cases and experience within the U.S. military legal system. Brauchler said, unlike his opponent he would not be an activist, rather “I will do what you have told me I can do with your laws.”
On the subject of what actions he would take in the event he believed the federal government had overreached its authority, Weiser said, “We have a check on the federal government if it acts illegally. It is worth it.” He told the audience at the debate he will fight for people with pre-existing conditions being denied coverage as designated in the Affordable Care Act, but are not being fought for by the Department of Justice.
Weiser also argued against proposed changes to the 2020 U.S. Census in which people would be asked about their immigration status. He’s concerned some in Colorado will hide from the effort to count the U.S. population and negatively impact Colorado. “We in Colorado care about immigrants, want them treated fairly, and we believe in asylum for appropriate cases.”
In rebuttal, George Brauchler says he takes issue with the idea of using the Attorney General’s Office to be a “lawsuit machine” against the federal government for events that take place outside of Colorado, including immigration which is a problem the U.S. Congress needs to address. Weiser countered that comment by stating he is “actively committed to fighting for the people of Colorado.”
During questioning about law enforcement since the passage of Amendment 64, the legalization of recreational marijuana, both candidates agreed more needs to be done to keep marijuana out of the hands of children.
Their opinions differ on how laws on the books in Colorado could be improved to reflect problems since legalization.
Weiser believes the records of people convicted for possession prior to legalization should be expunged. Brauchler argued that the Governor of Colorado could do that with a pardon, however, he pointed out that as a prosecutor he would be concerned about clearing those records considering there are cases where a drug dealer was convicted of possession as part of a larger plea deal agreement.
As a “lawyer of the people”, Weiser said he would fight against the federal government “sticking its nose where it does not belong” and protect businesses in compliance with Colorado law in respect to legal marijuana.
While Brauchler admits he did not support legalization he recognizes it is the law of the land. He wants better tracking of where taxes from marijuana sales go, stating better efforts would assist in funding law enforcement against the black market.
Brauchler believes allowing marijuana grows in homes is “the Achilles’ heel” of legalization. It’s a practice he would work to end as the Attorney General. He also wants to defend against the concept that the marijuana sold before and after legalization is the same,.
“Instead of low potency street schwag sold behind the 7-11 down the street, it’s incredibly potent, having nearly psychedelic impacts on kid’s minds. My concern is if you don’t arm law enforcement with more tools to punish those who give marijuana to kids outside the law, we’re going to have a generation of Jeff Spicoli’s from Fast Times at Ridgemont High before we’ve figured out what we’ve done wrong here,” said Brauchler.
Ballots for the November election were mailed out on October 15th.