Published 11.06.2018 11:22 p.m. | Updated 11.07.2018 2:59 p.m.
Democrat Phil Weiser has officially won the state attorney general's office after Republican candidate George Brauchler conceded the race Wednesday morning.
Brauchler lost by a narrow 40,000 votes. Weiser, a law professor and former Obama administration staffer, had already made a victory speech Tuesday night.
Weiser said he is eager to start tackling the big issues. Among his priorities includes joining other Democratic attorney generals nationwide in fighting the efforts of Republican AGs to eliminate the requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions.
"I'm not prepared to tell you which is the first lawsuit Colorado will join when I become AG, but I will tell you one of the first is standing up for the protection of the ACA against the action by the Texas AG and others to undermine this critical protection," Weiser said.
Brauchler was shaken by his loss, but readily offered his help to Weiser as needed. The Republican candidate has two years left as Arapahoe County District Attorney, and remains one of the state's most prominent Republicans while he remains in the role.
"It sucks. I feel unsettled. You're reaching me behind the desk here at the office because I'm trying to move forward. I'm still DA and there's a lot to do," Brauchler said.
Colorado Election Results
The bid for state attorney general was among the tightest — and costliest — races in Colorado this year.
Almost $10 million was spent total between the two sides from both outside groups and the candidates’ own fundraising.
Brauchler spent $5.3 million, $4.3 million of that coming from the Republican Attorneys General Association. Weiser and the Democratic Attorneys General Association spent $4.4 million.
That compares to about $2.5 million total spent in 2014 on the state attorney general race.
The state attorney general is responsible for enforcing state laws and protecting the state’s citizens and their interests, including providing consumer protections. The role also includes protection of state resources by upholding state and federal environmental laws, oversight or direct involvement in criminal court cases, and formal opinions to state and federal agencies.
The state AG’s office also acts as defense lawyers for state agencies and state employees who get into legal trouble.
Weiser’s win is a departure in behavior from elections past in Colorado.
Colorado voters have mostly elected Republicans to the attorney general’s office since the 1970s, with the exception of Ken Salazar, who served during Republican Gov. Bill Owens’ term.
Colorado voters have a penchant to split tickets and vote for both parties when choosing a governor and an attorney general. Brauchler picked up on this in his final weeks on the campaign and turned to Jared Polis supporters, requesting them to give shared party leadership at the helm of state government a chance.
“Colorado has been a state of great balance,” Brauchler told a room full of lawyers in one of the final debates. “For the first time in my life, Nov. 7 poses a real possibility that we wake up and every single hand on the levers of government across the state are in the hands of not just one party, but a harder left party that we’ve ever seen in the state of Colorado … We have never been all left or all right.”
Throughout the campaign, Brauchler touted his courtroom and management experience as Arapahoe County District Attorney as the reason he is ready for the state’s top legal job. He also tried to tar Weiser as an activist who would make the job overly political.
“I’m the guy who has had Colorado clients all across the spectrum of litigation,” Brauchler said. “I’m not going to be a rogue, activist attorney general.”
Weiser’s final pitches to voters were all about the Trump administration, promising to fight on behalf of DREAMers, victims of gun violence and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
“Your civil rights, your rights as consumers, your rights as workers, and the lawyer who represents the state on issues like water and the opioid epidemic will be decided in this election,” Weiser said in the final week. “We need to work together so that this law office protects all of the people in Colorado. What’s happening in Washington is a threat to the rule of law.”
Weiser, who worked in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, often called out Brauchler as falsely promoting the AG as a “super DA job.”
“The AG is the lawyer for the people of Colorado,” Weiser said. “Less than 10 percent of the job is criminal prosecution … I’ve got a different perspective.