DENVER — George Brauchler, the Republican district attorney who prosecuted Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, kicked off his gubernatorial campaign on Wednesday vowing to bring leadership to the state capitol.
"I just want Colorado to be everything it could and should be rather than what it is," said Brauchler, 47, who is also a colonel in the National Guard and did two tours in Iraq.
He becomes the biggest name in what is expected to become a crowded Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018, when Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper steps down due to term limits.
Other possible GOP candidates include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Kent Thiry, chief executive officer of Denver-based Davita HealthCare Partners, one of the largest U.S. kidney care companies.
On the Democratic side, former State Sen. Mike Johnston and Denver manufacturing entrepreneur Noel Ginsburg have both announced their candidacies. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy are considering running.
Brauchler sought to distinguish himself from the field by repeatedly stating that he is not a "career politician," having only held office as District Attorney of Colorado's 18th Judicial District, which is centered in Denver's southern suburbs.
"I'm not a self-funder, I don't have a family name," he said in an interview, promising to run "Colorado-style" campaign by convincing voters one by one.
The telegenic and personable Brauchler has plenty of assets. He rocketed to prominence shortly after being elected district attorney in November, 2012.
Months later, he held a blistering press conference in to criticize Hickenlooper's refusal to execute a multiple murderer on death row. Republican donors immediately took notice and tried to entice him to run against Hickenlooper in 2014, but Brauchler passed.
In 2015 he led the prosecution of Holmes, failing to secure the death penalty for the theater shooter. After the trial concluded he was again heavily courted by GOP leaders, this time to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016. He again demurred.
Brauchler for weeks has been telegraphing his gubernatorial bid by slamming a legislative deal to put a sales tax hike on the November ballot to pay for road improvements. He says he wants to find other ways to pay for transportation needs by reining in the state's Medicaid expenses and borrowing money against the state's share of federal gas tax revenues.
He opposes sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, but added that he does not want local authorities becoming immigration agents.
Brauchler also said it's important to prevent immigrants in the U.S. illegally from becoming afraid about reporting crime amid President Donald Trump's promised immigration crackdown.
Brauchler voted for Trump, who lost Colorado to Hillary Clinton last year.
He said he expects Colorado voters will judge him based on his leadership rather than the president's.
"Simply being a Republican governor doesn't make me lockstep in line backing every Republican president or opposed to every Democratic president," Brauchler said.