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Aurora theater prosecutor George Brauchler announces bid for Colorado governor

April 5, 2017 Updated: April 5, 2017 at 6:54 am
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In this Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 photograph, Arapahoe County, Colo., District Attorney George Brauchler speaks outside the Arapahoe County Courthouse after the jury sentenced convicted Aurora, Colo., theatre shooter James Holmes to life in prison without parole in Centennial, Colo. Brauchler is expected to make a decision on making a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet up for election in 2016 in Colorado. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler will compete for the Republican Party's nomination for governor, his campaign is expected to announce Wednesday.

The energetic district attorney for the state's largest jurisdiction gained prominence for several high-profile cases, including acting as the lead prosecutor in the case against convicted Colorado theater shooter James Holmes.

Brauchler's strong personality was highlighted during the case, which he said ended in disappointment after the jury refused to sentence Holmes to die for one of the worst massacres in the country's history.

"George Brauchler will be a very formidable candidate," said Dick Wadhams, a GOP consultant and former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. "He's been front and center in the public eye for several years now ... and he's got a great presence; he's a great speaker."

Colorado Politics sat down with Brauchler on Tuesday ahead of his expected Wednesday announcement, which has been building for several years. He teased the announcement Tuesday with a Facebook video that said his campaign would be "coming soon."

Brauchler gained the political limelight in 2013 after criticizing Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, for issuing a temporary stay of execution to convicted killer Nathan Dunlap.

"I remember being on the west steps of the Capitol, and that wasn't scripted or pre-planned, I didn't know what the governor was going to do before he did it," Brauchler recalled of his frustration with Hickenlooper at the time.

"It brought some attention on me in a way that I hadn't anticipated, not in a way that I could really plan for."

Brauchler wasn't ready to enter the gubernatorial race in 2014, as he had recently been elected the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. Facing the Aurora theater case, Brauchler wanted to take a lead role.

"I couldn't leave that to go chase some political ambition, so I did what I thought was the right thing to do," he said.

He seriously considered running for U.S. Senate last year before deciding that his "ambitions didn't lie in Washington, D.C."

"I have a passion for this state," Brauchler said, noting that he went to law school at the University of Colorado.

He was recently promoted to colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard. Part of his responsibility includes training state and military prosecutors worldwide.

Brauchler is the former chief of military justice for northern Iraq, which he described as "tens of thousands of square miles of thankless dust and sand."

Taking a shot at Hickenlooper, Brauchler said the state has lacked leadership for the past six years. "Affability is not a substitute for leadership ... What we need is someone who is willing to spend political capital for the betterment of the state of Colorado and our community."

Brauchler believes the state is "on the precipice of a meltdown" over transportation and education, areas of the state budget that are "being crowded out by this ballooning and failing Obamacare, where we've tripled the size of Medicaid," he said.

Brauchler will likely face a crowded Republican field, which could lead to a bitter and divisive primary. Also expected to announce a run for governor on the Republican ticket is state Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

DaVita Healthcare Partners chief executive Kent Thiry is also said to be considering a run for governor on the Republican ticket, as is former U.S. Senate candidate and Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham.

Former Republican state Rep. Victor Mitchell has already launched a campaign.

Four Republicans have filed paperwork to run.

Democrats, however, are facing a primary of their own, with former state Sen. Mike Johnston already in the race. Johnston reported a record-breaking fundraising period, with at least $625,000 for the first quarter of 2017.

Five Democrats have already filed paperwork, with U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, also expected to announce a run for governor on the Democratic ticket. And former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy is seriously considering it as well.

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