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Democrat Michael Dougherty suspends attorney general campaign, applies for Boulder DA

Author: Ernest Luning - February 2, 2018 - Updated: February 4, 2018

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Michael DoughertyDemocratic attorney general candidate Michael Dougherty, a Jefferson and Gilpin county prosecutor, listens as the moderator asks a question at a candidate forum sponsored by DemEnterCO on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at the Wheat Ridge Grange in Wheat Ridge. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Democrat Michael Dougherty said Friday he was suspending his campaign for attorney general and  had applied to fill the vacancy created by Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett’s decision to step down at the end of the month.

Dougherty, the assistant district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin counties and a former top prosecutor in the attorney general’s office, has been one of five Democrats campaigning to succeed Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who is running for governor.

Gov. John Hickenlooper will appoint a replacement for Garnett and is taking applications through the end of the day Friday. The office will be on the November ballot.

“This decision was not an easy one,” Dougherty said in a statement. “Stan Garnett’s recent decision to leave the district attorney’s office presents an important opportunity to continue my life’s work in the community in which my family and I live. Over the past few weeks, I have received a tremendous amount of encouragement from leaders in the legal community and law enforcement to pursue the opening for Boulder DA. I am honored by their support of this decision to do so.”

Garnett announced in January he was resigning after 10 years as district attorney to take a position as senior partner at Denver law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where he worked for 22 years in the litigation department before winning election in 2008.

Two Boulder County Democrats who work as deputy district attorneys in Garnett’s office, three-term state Rep. Mike Foote of Lafayette and Tim Johnson of Louisville, are also applying for the job.

“I have submitted my application for the position and would be honored to be the governor’s appointee,” Foote, a 14-year veteran in the DA’s office, said in a statement.

Foote endorsed Dougherty for attorney general last summer, calling his a “shining example of a leader within our criminal justice community,” and donating $100 to his campaign. Dougherty returned the praise, calling Foote one of Colorado’s great state lawmakers and an “important leader for the Boulder community,” adding, “I appreciate his fighting on behalf of our environment.”

Johnson told Colorado Politics he’s been committed to prosecuting crimes against vulnerable populations for much of his 20 years working at the office.

“I’m looking to make our office much more proactive instead of reactive,” he said, adding that he believes it’s “incumbent upon he DA’s office to lead change and look at prosecuting crimes differently.”

Johnson pointed to the pre-trail diversion program started under Garnett and a victim support center recently established in Denver as examples of approaches a prosecutor can take. He also said he’s interested in working with local employers to help offenders on probation and serving community-based sentences succeed.

Former University of Colorado Law School Dean Phil Weiser, one of the other Democrats running for attorney general, called Dougherty “a true public servant” and said his former opponent’s background “would make him a terrific Boulder District Attorney, where he would fill the very big shoes of Stan Garnett, a great leader in Boulder, the criminal justice community, and the legal profession.”

Weiser continued: “As a candidate for Attorney General, Michael elevated the debate, was a strong advocate for criminal justice reform, and effectively made the case for why we need a Democrat as our next attorney general here in Colorado. I look forward to working with Michael in the years ahead as we collaborate to address the important challenges and opportunities that are facing in Colorado.”

In a statement to Colorado Politics, State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said, “Mike was a good opponent and I respect that he took on the task to run for a statewide office. I wish him luck with his future adventures.”

The other Democrats running for attorney general are Denver attorney Brad Levin and Amy Padden, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado.

The only Republican in the race is George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, who spent most of last year running for governor but switched to run for attorney general in November days after Coffman jumped in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.