Election 2018NewsThe Front Range

Michael Dougherty appointed to replace Stan Garnett as Boulder district attorney

Author: Ernest Luning - February 22, 2018 - Updated: February 22, 2018

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Democratic attorney general candidate Michael Dougherty visits at the Denver Democratic Party’s annual Edward M. Kennedy dinner on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at the Mariott Denver Downtown. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday appointed veteran prosecutor Michael Dougherty, a former Democratic candidate for attorney general, to replace Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, who is stepping down at the end of the month to take a job with a law firm.

At the same time, state Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, the other finalist for the appointment, reiterated his intention to run for the office in the June primary.

One of five Democrats who had been running to replace outgoing Attorney General Cynthia Coffman until he suspended his campaign to apply for the vacancy, Dougherty plans to begin working with Garnett on Thursday to begin the transition. His appointment takes effect March 1.

Dougherty, the assistant district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin counties and a Boulder resident, said in a statement he was thrilled to have been selected.

“The opportunity to lead the District Attorney’s Office in this community is an incredible honor and privilege. I will work tirelessly, drawing upon my 20 years of experience as a prosecutor, to ensure public safety and achieve progressive criminal justice reform for Boulder County. I look forward to working closely with Stan Garnett and his staff to ensure a smooth transition for the office and the people of Boulder,” Dougherty said.

In a statement, Garnett said: “Michael Dougherty is an excellent prosecutor, a visionary, progressive leader and a really nice guy. I look forward to working with him to assure a smooth transition for my staff and for justice in Boulder County.”

A campaign spokesman for Dougherty declined to say whether he plans to run for the office or terminate his bid for attorney general.

“We are taking this one step at a time. Michael’s focus right now is on the transition process and making sure that Boulder County remains well served by their district attorney,” Daniel Aschkinasi told Colorado Politics, adding that “the status of the attorney general campaign remains unchanged.”

Garnett won election to a third term in 2016, but because of the timing of the the vacancy, Boulder voters will go to the polls in November for a special election to fill the remainder of the four-year term.

Foote, a deputy district attorney in Garnett’s office, said in a statement he’s already campaigning for the job.

“This November, Boulder County voters will ultimately decide who serves as their next District Attorney. This is how it should be, and I welcome the process,” Foote said. “I launched my campaign earlier this month so I could reach out to the community and share my vision for the office with those voters. I look forward to continuing that effort and earning their support.”

Foote announced earlier this month that he has endorsements from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the five-term Boulder Democrat running for governor, along with every legislator representing Boulder County and the county’s three commissioners, all Democrats. Former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and former Senate President Brandon Shaffer, both Boulder County residents, are also backing Foote.

Dougherty has the support of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle and Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa.

Foote said he intends to get on the primary ballot though the caucus and assembly process, which kicks off March 6 at precinct caucuses. In order to petition onto the primary ballot, a district attorney candidate has to gather 1,000 signatures by March 20.

Dougherty worked in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for 12 years, including as deputy chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, before moving to Colorado in 2010 to head up the Colorado DNA Justice Review Project in the attorney general’s office. He was later promoted to head the Criminal Justice Section under then-Attorney General John Suthers and then went to work as 1st Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir’s second-in-command in Golden.

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. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.