George Brauchler sees Colorado attorney general as a ‘protector, a defender and a guardian’ of citizens’ rights and safety
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily will introduce readers to candidates for statewide political office as they campaign in the region. In this edition is Republican George Brauchler, running for Colorado attorney general. A profile of Democratic candidate Phil Weiser can be found at http://www.vaildaily.com.
VAIL — George Brauchler is in the persuasion business — he’s a lawyer, after all. On Wednesday, Aug. 22, he made the case for his candidacy for Colorado attorney general to a mostly full room at the 60th annual Colorado Water Congress at the Hotel Talisa.
Brauchler, a Republican, is the district attorney of Colorado’s 18th Judicial District. He was the lead prosecutor in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. He earned a conviction but was unsuccessful in arguing for the death penalty for the shooter.
Wednesday, Brauchler talked about his background and his philosophy about how the state’s top law enforcement officer should do that job.
A modest upbringing
Brauchler’s family moved to the Denver suburb of Lakewood when he was about 2 years old. He attended mass at a nearby Catholic church and attended public schools from kindergarten through law school.
In high school, he “graduated at the top of the second half” of his class. He earned a scholarship from the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder.
He told the crowd that he soon found out the Boulder campus wasn’t the most military-friendly place. He also soon discovered he was unsuited for his first major of aerospace engineering and ultimately graduated with degrees in economics and political science.
The photo he showed from his law school graduation has the requisite smiles from family members, but only because “no one believed I would make it,” he said. He immediately landed a job as a deputy prosecutor.
Brauchler has been married for 20 years and has four kids, all of whom attend public schools.
Brauchler’s wife is a small-business owner. She’s also had to hold down the home front while her husband has been deployed, once as the chief military justice in northern Iraq. He’s currently a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Views on the law
After a brief stint in private practice — a business that started just as the previous decade’s Great Recession began — and following his deployment to Iraq, Brauchler decided to run for district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, winning a primary and, ultimately, the job.
The district has a population of more than 1 million, and the office has a total staff of 225 people, including 90 prosecutors.
Time in the civilian and military justice systems have given Brauchler a firm philosophy about the attorney general’s job: Whoever holds that position is a “protector, a defender and a guardian” of citizens’ rights and safety.
Speaking to a group of people focused on water rights, Brauchler said part of his job is protecting the state’s water rights from federal interference. Another part is negotiating when it comes time to talk about multi-state compacts, such as the one governing the Colorado River.
Brauchler said he’s gained a keen appreciation of how water rights are viewed in different parts of the state. Speaking in Delta recently, Brauchler said he was asked about prosecuting victims of theft. The punchline, as most longtime Western Slope residents know, is “Denver’s stealing our water.”
As he’s traveled the state, Brauchler said he’s come to believe that areas outside the Interstate 25 corridor between Pueblo and Fort Collins increasingly see themselves as part of a “second Colorado.”
In a conversation after his presentation, Brauchler said he’d like to bring some of his office’s resources to those other parts of the state. He questioned why so many state offices have to be “a horse and buggy ride” away from the state capitol.
Sending even a couple of people — and their Denver-area salaries — to the state’s more far-flung areas could do a couple of things, Brauchler said.
First, it can provide a bump — albeit a small one — to local economies. More important, though, having state officials nearby can be a “force multiplier” for local law enforcement.
Maintaining Colorado’s diversity
As a life-long state resident, Brauchler is a firm believer in Colorado’s long tradition of divided government. Answering a question about potentially dealing with a Democratic governor, Brauchler said that in his lifetime, Colorado only once has had a governor and attorney general from the same party — Gov. Bill Ritter and Attorney General Ken Salazar.
That split means an attorney general has to be more faithful to the state’s laws and its constitution than to either official’s political agenda.
If Democrat Jared Polis is elected governor, “If I can find a way to help (his agenda) and it’s within the law, I’ll do that,” Brauchler said.
On the other hand, if any governor’s agenda is in violation of the law, “I’ll be an impediment.”
Keeping the state’s top offices in the hands of officials from different parties is one reason Brauchler said he’s seeking the attorney general’s job.
Looking at the future of the state, Brauchler said Colorado is “on the verge of becoming one thing (a Democratic stronghold).” The best thing he can do for his four kids is help keep that split in place, he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.