Attorney General candidate Phil Weiser vows to fight for Colorado’s rights during Vail Valley campaign swing
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily will introduce readers to candidates for statewide political office as they campaign in the region. Today is Democrat Phil Weiser, running for Colorado attorney general.
AVON — Phil Weiser spent five years as dean of the University of Colorado law school and remains a professor. He had no specific plans in 2017, but he needed to be doing something good, so on May 11, 2017, he announced he was running for Colorado attorney general, for some very good reasons.
“We are in a challenging and scary moment for our country. I know that for our government to work, we need people who will raise their hand and run for office. For me, that had been a more abstract awareness,” Weiser said.
This is Weiser’s first run at political office, but he has a long history of public service. He worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations and was eyeing a spot in a Hillary Clinton administration.
“We’re not in that world. In this world, the states matter more than ever. Our federal government is so deeply polarized and dysfunctional. But states like Colorado can show the way to rebuild the fabric of our society. For us to do that, people need to step up and run for office. And this office, attorney general, is extraordinarily important, especially now,” Weiser said.
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Weiser, a Democrat, faces George Brauchler, a Republican and district attorney of Colorado’s 18th Judicial District in the metro Denver area.
As Weiser was launching his campaign, he took a trip to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, then Edwards and Glenwood Springs, where several of his former CU law students showed up to support him and convinced others to do the same.
“That was the foundation of the campaign,” Weiser said.
Since then, he has built his name recognition the old fashioned way — one handshake at a time.
Still, there were those what-am-I-doing moments.
“The day before I was about to announce, I felt like I was about to jump out of an airplane. I really hoped there was a parachute, because this is a scary jump I’m taking. In a way, there were lots of parachutes,” Weiser said. “I’ll say this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Of all the things Weiser has learned in his campaign, he was not surprised to learn that the body politic is not nearly as fractured as some would have us believe.
“People care about people. People do not go around insulting each other or demonizing each other. People are neighbors. They’re friends and colleagues, and they want to live productive lives … people want similar things,” Weiser said. “Some elements are trying to rip apart that fabric of society. What I have always found, time and again talking with people, is that you can always work together and try to work out solutions.”
10th Amendment advocate
The former CU law school dean is a tireless advocate for the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that section of the Bill of Rights that basically says any power not given to the federal government is given to the people or the states.
Take immigration and marijuana law, for instance.
The feds have been rattling a few sabers about Coloradans’ “sovereign” decision to decriminalize marijuana.
“The goal is to protect what we have in Colorado, which means invoking the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to keep the federal government in general, and Jeff Sessions in particular, from encroaching on Colorado’s decision,” Weiser said.
Local law enforcement agencies should not be involving themselves in federal immigration law, Weiser said.
“If you want people to be able to testify in court, report crimes and be witnesses, if your law enforcement turns them over to ICE and becomes an arm of the deportation operation, you’re not going to have people willing to testify. They’ll retreat to the shadows and we’ll all be less safe,” Weiser said.
“The idea that the federal government would force you to cooperate goes against the U.S. Constitution, and I’ll defend the people of this state as the top lawyer of Colorado.”
The United States needs smarter immigration, not more immigration or less immigration, he said. We get there with legislation such as the 2013 bipartisan bill that Sen. Michael Bennet helped hammer out, he said.
“The politics have become disabling,” Weiser said. “I’m about getting to solutions. I am not about political games.”
Immigrants are a “strength” to our economy, he said.
“What would happen to the economy of this valley if you had no immigrant workforce here?” Weiser asked.
“If we look at this as an opportunity for a solution, we’ll get to a solution. If we look at this as a political game and demonize them, we’re in trouble,” Weiser said. “There are a number of tools as attorney general I can use to make sure immigrants are treated fairly and lawfully.”
He said the current political climate “pains” him personally. Weiser is a first-generation American. His mother was born in a Nazi concentration camp, April 13, 1945. The camp was liberated the next day by the U.S. Army. She later chose to immigrate to this country.
“I believe in our tradition that welcomes immigrants the way my family was welcomed,” Weiser said. “What’s happening at our border, separating families, is wrong. It goes against our country’s policy of due process of law, which we are not affording to people seeking asylum.”
“This question of whether we are treating immigrants lawfully is one that state attorneys general have been on the front lines of, and I would be there,” Weiser said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.