By Tony Kovaleski
DENVER – George Brauchler, the district attorney in Arapahoe County best-known for his relentless crusade to bring the death penalty back to action in Colorado and for being the prosecutor in the Aurora movie theater shooting case, is running for governor, he told Denver7 Tuesday afternoon.
Brauchler, who is Colorado’s 18th Judicial District Attorney, has overseen prosecution in the district that covers parts of Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties since January 2013.
“This is the only home I’ve ever known, and everything that’s important to me is here in this state – my kids, my wife -- I mean every part of my life has occurred here,” Brauchler said. “This state means something to me, and not just for now, but for the future…and I think I can bring the kind of leadership to this office that has been missing for some time now.”
There were discussions of Brauchler possibly running for governor for the 2014 election, but he says he decided not to because he was still working on the James Holmes trial – one that earned him national notoriety when he decided to try and pursue the death penalty for Holmes, and ultimately failed.
Brauchler told Denver7 he has thought about the governorship for months, but decided to announce his candidacy after the holidays to benefit his family.
He says that he considers himself a political outsider.
“I’m not going to be the richest candidate in this race. In fact, if there’s a spectrum of people who bring money or long political ties to family members to this campaign, I’m not that guy,” Brauchler said. “I’m going to be on the other side of the spectrum, and that is the conservative grassroots candidate.”
“If you’re the grassroots candidate, that’s not just a word or a label…it means you’ve got to do something,” he said. “You earn your votes not by buying TV time or putting mailers in people’s mailboxes or showing up on the internet. It’s about handshakes. It’s about doing this right here, having face-to-face conversations.”
He says he also considered a U.S. Senate run after the Holmes trial, but decided to stay put in Colorado, where he says he feels he’s had an impact.
“I think I have proven from my time in office that I will stand up for the things that I believe in, for the things that I think are right, even in the face of opposition,” Brauchler told Denver7. “I will spend political capital to do what I think is right, so that kind of commitment to doing the right thing and the leadership that it takes to do that – to make a difference – I think that’s what I bring to the table.”
Former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell has already declared his candidacy in the Republican primary for governor, and Brauchler could also face a challenge from Rep. Ed Perlmutter, whose name has been brought up as a possible Democratic suitor for the nomination.
Brauchler says he thinks he still has a good chance, no matter who the opponent is.
“I like my chances because I know me,” he told Denver7. “I know the feedback that I get from total strangers in the supermarket who come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for what you did on this case or that case, and thank you for taking a stand.’ I like our chances, but I’m not going to dismiss anybody on the Republican side.”
He says he respects some of his declared and potential opponents, but that he thinks he is more small-government-minded than his counterparts.
“I think [Coloradans] vote for the person who brings the strongest leadership and greatest commitment to Colorado values,” he said.
He says he believes that individual liberties, the Second Amendment and states’ rights are some of the most important issues in Colorado.
“This is a state that wants to be left alone by and large. This is a state that believes in neighbors and community, and not, ‘What can government do for me?’” he said. “This is a state that believes in self-determination.”
Brauchler says he believes some of his public stances, including his support to bring back the death penalty, which he said he would seek again in a recent rape case and which current Gov. John Hickenlooper said he will not enforce, will be met well by voters.
“I think we’ve had enough of affability wishy-washiness – just trying to remain popular at all costs,” Brauchler said. “I think all of Colorado – Republicans, Democrats, independents – I think they’re all craving someone to stand up and say, ‘Let’s move forward together, and not just let the winds of change blow us around.’”
Brauchler says he thinks President Donald Trump has done some positive things in office, but also done some things that have caused “huge distractions.” But he maintains his own candidacy is more about keeping federal bureaucracy out of the lives of every day Coloradans than what the new head of the Republican party is doing on The Hill.
“We don’t want bureaucrats thousands of miles from here showing up to tell us how we ought to be managing our affairs or living our lives,” he said. “So if people are interested in that kind of separation, if they want to govern or to stand up and say, ‘Listen federal government: Let us be Colorado. That’s what we want to be,’ then I’m the person that you want to put in that position.
“Whether it’s Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else you can name for the future, I will put the interests of Colorado before the interest of my party,” he continued.
Brauchler teased his candidacy in a Facebook post Tuesday.
Before becoming district attorney, Brauchler worked as a prosecutor in the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, in private practice, and as a member of the Colorado Army National Guard’s JAG corps.
He remains an active-duty colonel in the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2011 as chief of military justice for the 4th Infantry Division.
Brauchler received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder and has taught both there and at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.
Hickenlooper will not be able to retain the governorship because of term limits. Democrats Noel Ginsburg, a businessman, and former state lawmaker Mike Johnston have already announced their candidacies on the Democratic side, in addition to Perlmutter.