Last week, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett confirmed that he was considering a run for Colorado Attorney General against controversial incumbent John Suthers -- but first, he wanted to test the water.
Apparently, the water's fine, because Garnett's jumped in to the race.
"It's going to be a lot of work," he says, "and we're getting into the game very late. But there seems to be a lot of excitement about me running."
"It's no secret that the last couple of years have been pretty tough for people," he says. "And there's a lot that can be done in the Attorney General's office to help consumers, to help seniors, to help businesses. I'm really excited by the opportunity to be the Attorney General and make sure that we don't waste any time on special-interest efforts, and actually go to work on behalf of people who make up the state and pay taxes and have been struggling."
That reference to "special-interest efforts" is a none-too-subtle jab at Suthers' proclivity for getting involved in what his critics see as agenda-driven actions -- notably his decision to join a lawsuit aimed at just-passed federal health-care legislation. Suthers denies that this move was politically motivated, but Garnett doesn't buy it. "It's completely political," he says.
"I've been quite open with my thinking that it's a mistake to participate in the health-care lawsuit," he notes. "It's difficult to say what the cost in dollars is to the State of Colorado, but my concern is more the issue of taking the prestige of the most important office in the state for a lawyer and injecting it into litigation like this.
"These issues relating to what the authority of the federal government is are fundamental to the American constitutional system, and they've been debated very vigorously for decades. In fact, the issue was brought to a head back in 1832, when Andrew Jackson dealt with South Carolina in what became known as the Nullification Crisis. That state was saying they wanted to be in a position to only agree to federal laws they liked. So I think the overwhelming weight of authority is that these issues are well settled. And in addition, I see no benefit to the state by raising them in this case. The impact he'd have if he's successful in the suit would be to derail the portion of the health-care bill assuring that children with preexisting conditions can get health insurance."
Garnett's priorities if elected?
"In the Attorney General's office, one can take the initiative on environmental issues, consumer issues, things to protect the public," he says. "And that's the direction I want to take the office in.
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"The Attorney General has a clear constitutional and statutory obligation to protect the water and resources of Colorado," he continues. "It's an essential that the Attorney General be in a position of being proactive in taking on litigation that deals with pollution from mines, with air quality issues, with water quality issues. With the vast expanses of mountains and prairies we've got, the state has to be ready to raise legal issues to make sure we protect those resources."
Has Suthers done as much as he should have in these areas. Garnett's response is simple: "I think he has not."
If Garnett doesn't best Suthers, he won't lose his current job, which he's held for a little over fifteen months. "It's just like John Hickenlooper running for governor as mayor," he says. "I will retain my position as district attorney. And one of the things I've been doing over the last week or so is making sure my office is in good shape and that the leadership in the office was comfortable with me undertaking this run. And they are."
They'd better be. Because the race is on.