Colorado Attorney General John Suthers' announcement that he would be joining in a lawsuit with a dozen other AGs across the country to challenge the constitutionality of the new health-care bill was cheered by some political observers and jeered by others -- with members of the latter group casting around for potential candidates to run against Suthers in this November's election.
Among the possibilities to surface thus far: Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who's as close to the anti-Suthers as Democrats are likely to find.
Garnett hasn't committed to the race yet, but he appears to be taking a hard look at the prospect. While early reports suggested that he'd reach a decision this week, he now says that's not "practical," and it'll probably take longer before he makes an announcement one way or the other.
"I'm sorting through how feasible a campaign is and what the impact on my office would be," he notes, adding, "I'm very much enjoying being a DA in Boulder. We've made a lot of progress in this office, and I definitely want to continue that."
Because Garnett's only been on the job a little over a year (he was sworn in last January), he maintains, "my initial inclination when my name first came up last week was to say, 'No, I'm not interested.' But then I had some people tell me, 'Don't say that. Take some time, listen to what people say, and maybe you'll see things differently.'"
With that in mind, he spent much of this past weekend listening to politicos and just plain folks who like the idea of him taking on Suthers. "A lot of people seem excited by the idea," he says. "A lot of people seem to think that I would be a good attorney general and a strong candidate."
Presumably, most of these individuals were less than thrilled by Suthers' decision to join the aforementioned health-care lawsuit. Count Garnett among their number.
"I think that was a mistake," he says. "That's not what a public prosecutor's office is to be used for, and it's inconsistent with positions the attorney general has stated in the past, about trying to stay away from politically motivated litigation."
According to Garnett, the lawsuit alone isn't enough to convince him to take on Suthers -- but he does see it as emblematic of other problematic issues. He's also musing about the opportunities winning the office might afford.
"The Colorado Attorney General's office is one of the most important elected positions in the state," he says. "Under the state constitution, it's in the position to take the initiative on a lot of important areas as a kind of law firm acting on behalf of the public. Those areas would be antitrust, consumer rights, the environment, organized crime enforcement -- and those would all be things I would be interested in pursuing in that office if I were to become attorney general."
Also on Garnett's radar is the issue of medical marijuana. As he points out, "I was one of the first elected district attorneys to speak out in public about medical marijuana dispensaries." See the blog "Does Boulder DA Stan Garnett Want to Legalize Pot?" for more details.
In contrast, Suthers believes the entire medical marijuana dispensary system to be illegal, as he stressed in a recent Westword interview. But Garnett is cautious when talking about his differences with Suthers on this subject.
"I think it's fair to say that John and I share some of the same goals when it comes to medical marijuana -- managing distribution in a way that keeps it out of the hands of children and enforces the intent of Amendment 20," he says.
However, he goes on, "I believe the best way to do that is to have a carefully managed scheme of regulation. I support the Romer bill that tightened up the doctor-patient relationship" -- legislation that even Senator Chris Romer himself would like to tweak -- "and I'm closely watching the dispensary bill."
About the latter, he says, "I haven't stated my support of that yet, because I don't like the way it takes local control away from municipalities. I think each municipality has the right to decide if there should be dispensaries there, and if so, under what conditions. That's basically the system that's in place now, and I think it's worked pretty well, even in cities like Boulder, which is processing some very strict regulations that will tighten up the dispensary business.
"John has been more openly anti-dispensary than I have, and I just don't think that's a practical position -- and frankly, neither does anybody else in the legislature, as far as I can tell. Dispensaries are a reality, Amendment 20 is a reality, and the idea now is to empower local municipalities to regulate dispensaries properly."
We won't know for a while if Garnett will be articulating these positions while in campaign mode. He's not required to announce his candidacy until ten days before the state convention, which is to take place by June 1. But "I'd want to make up my mind a lot sooner than that, partly to be fair to anybody else who's thinking about running," he says, "and partly to get organized and get to work."
Unless something changes, he won't be making a final determination this week. But as he acknowledges, "the clock is ticking."