State Attorney General candidates Democrat Phil Weiser (L) and Republican George Brauchler debate at the Federalist Society.

Allison Sherry/CPR News

State Attorney General candidates Republican George Brauchler and Democrat Phil Weiser draw stark contrasts in how activist their agendas would be against the federal government.

Asked in a debate this week hosted by the Federalist Society how each would approach the job, Weiser said he has been transparent in his ideals, which include fighting for abortion rights, advocating for workplace rights for LGBTQ people and standing up to the Trump administration.

 “You need to know where people stand, are you for or against Roe vs Wade, are you against discrimination employment based on sexual orientation, are you for taking on pharmaceutical companies for lying to people,” Weiser said. “The people elect the people’s lawyer based on their preference.”

Brauchler said he wouldn’t be in the business of advancing policies outside of the office.

“We’ve seen across the country, there is a trend, Republican and Democrat alike, to weaponize the attorney general office and to turn it into some sort of extra senator or treat AG like it stands for  assistant governor,” he said. “The attorney general should not be in the business for advancing policies outside their delegated authority.”

But seemingly that view could change—depending on who is president.

“I’m a defender of all Coloradans and our laws and push back against federal overreach in whatever form that takes—it could be the Waters of the United States, which is an administrative rule that sought to hijack 93 percent of our jurisdiction over our water,” Brauchler said. “That is not the role of the federal government and an attorney general should push back on that.”

The two also sparred about how the current outgoing Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has handled oil and gas regulations, including a lawsuit she filed against Boulder County for its fracking restrictions.

“I know the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can be controversial in terms of what they do, but what they cannot do is be illegal,” Brauchler said. “No matter what the next attorney general thinks about fracking, the COGCC is a client of the attorney general that they are duty-bound to defend.”

Weiser said Coffman’s decision to sue Boulder County without talking to them first was wrong.

“The lawyer for the people is the lawyer for county governments too,” Weiser said. “I will advise local governments how to follow the law and protect their people.”

Asked what the biggest issue within the AG’s jurisdiction that affects “normal Coloradans,” Weiser said the opioid epidemic. Brauchler said the number of untreated mentally ill people tangled up in the state’s criminal justice system. 

The two did agree that the race for this seat is exhausting. Brauchler called the campaign trail “soul-sucking” and said that he has often missed his kids’ life events to be on the trail.

“Tomorrow, I’ll be in Weld County talking to another group of good citizens while my boy is playing single-elimination playoff baseball at age 8 and that breaks my heart, man,” he said. “There is very little that is truly fun about this process at this time on the calendar.”

Weiser commiserated.

“I can feel your pain,” he said, facing Brauchler. “My daughter is playing volleyball tonight.