One of the few hotly contested primary races in Colorado elections this year is the brawl between Leslie Hansen and George Brauchler over who will be the Republican candidate for district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, vying to succeed Carol Chambers as top prosecutor in one of the state's most populous districts. And judging from the recent snarling from supporters in both camps, that race is going to get even steamier before the balloting ends late this month.
Chambers is term-limited and will leave office after this year. Hansen served as her chief assistant prosecutor for years and has vowed to pursue a similar agenda despite controversies over many of the office's policies, including its filing of habitual criminal charges at a rate far exceeding that of any other judicial district in the state. Hansen has also publicly stated that she would keep Chambers on in some capacity, although Chambers hasn't indicated that she would accept a position as Hansen's assistant DA.
So it shouldn't exactly come as a shock that prominent defense attorney Nathan Chambers, the DA's husband, has ponied up $5,000 for a 527 group pushing for Hansen's election. Yet news of that contribution touched off a pretty lively exchange of name-calling in this Denver Post account, with Brauchler supporters seeing the gift as a "down payment" for a future job, and Nathan Chambers referring to the opposing candidate as "George Brauchbama."
Brauchler supporters like to point out that their guy, a former federal and county prosecutor, pulled more than 40 percent of the vote at the district assembly, which they see as a clear signal that the party wants a new direction in the DA's office; Hansen had to petition her way onto the ballot. Still, there's nothing that unusual about the Chambers donation. Plenty of current employees of prosecutors' offices and their spouses have been known to chip in to support the insider or incumbent candidate.
But this isn't a campaign in which either side is going to pass up an opportunity to bash the other over possible monkeyshines. Attorney Kory Nelson, a Brauchler supporter, has also made use of the Post's Your Hub to unleash a lengthy barrage -- in two parts, yet -- dissecting Hansen's record and her close ties to Chambers.
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Nelson's most intriguing allegation is a claim that Hansen's campaign has violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that restricts the political activities of certain government officials while they're still in office. Nelson's complaint to the feds on this issue failed to produce any sanctions, he explains, because the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Hansen had served as a chief deputy district attorney (a position not covered by the Hatch exclusions) during the entire time of her candidacy. But Nelson says Hansen was still Chambers's "assistant district attorney" when she began campaigning last fall and wasn't officially sworn into the lesser position until November 30, 2011 -- two weeks after Nelson filed an open records request seeking to clarify her position.
Can the opposition throw the book at Hansen? Will Brauchler prove to be the "empty suit" his rival's boss's hubbie says he is? Stay tuned. Whoever emerges victorious in the primary will probably be sporting some bruises, while the Democratic candidate, former judge Ethan Feldman, waits patiently in the wings.
More from our Politics archive: "'Big Bitch. policy divides DA candidates George Brauchler, Leslie Hansen."