DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s political world is waiting on George Brauchler.
The district attorney of the 18th Judicial District, which covers the southern swath of the Denver metro area, only wrapped up the grueling, seven-month-long theater shooting trial just over a week ago. But he’s come under enormous pressure to decide on whether to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in next year’s election.
Republicans have failed to recruit a prominent challenger to the state’s senior senator, and the Colorado seat is key for the party’s hopes to hold onto the Senate in the 2016 elections. “George brings instant credibility,” said Greg Brophy, chief of staff to Rep. Ken Buck, one of multiple members of the Colorado congressional delegation Brauchler has spoken with recently. “The national money will start flowing instantly if he gets into the race.”
But Brauchler is openly conflicted, wary of having to spend time away from his four young children while also tempted by the opportunity. “I’m just not there yet,” said an exhausted-sounding Brauchler in an interview Wednesday. He added that many of his conversations have been informal. “The ones that matter to me are how do you balance this with your home life?”
Brauchler won his first election only three years ago, months after James Holmes killed 12 and injured 70 in his midnight attack on a midnight screening of the new Batman movie. Brauchler inherited the case, but became a much-talked about commodity in Republican political circles due to an entirely different multiple killing.
In early 2013, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper gave an indefinite reprieve from execution to Nathan Dunlap, who’d killed four people at a Chuck-E-Cheese in 1997. At a press conference on the steps of the state capitol, Brauchler, whose office had prosecuted the case, lit into the governor. The performance immediately vaulted him into the top tier of Colorado Republican political prospects.
Initial speculation centered on Brauchler running for governor, but he declined to challenge Hickenlooper, instead focusing on the theater shooting trial. Brauchler failed to convince a jury to sentence Holmes to death, but the case kept him in the public eye. Meanwhile, politicians Republicans had hoped would challenge Bennet steadily said no. The party is left with little-known candidates like El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and former Parker mayor Greg Lopez. In private conversations over recent months, GOP operatives have increasingly been convinced Brauchler would take on Bennet rather than wait for a shot at an open gubernatorial seat in 2018.
Speculation reached a fever pitch after the trial formally concluded last week. Brauchler said he knows he has to make up his mind soon. On Wednesday, State Sen. Tim Neville, a vocal social conservative, said he was thinking about getting in the contest, and businessman Rod Blaha has reiterated his interest in the race.
Brauchler, 45, said that he knows he’d have a “vigorous” primary if he ran. He said he did not want to state his position on Colorado political controversies like efforts to grant legal status to fertilized eggs until he decides whether to enter the race. “I’d be happy to answer those things if I got into the Senate” contest, he said.
Some Democratic-aligned groups have issued statements criticizing Brauchler for his handling of the trial or opposition to abortion rights as speculation has risen during the past week. But those have barely registered on the prosecutor amid the intense speculation. “It’s flattering,” he said, “but it’s also overwhelming.”
By Nicholas Riccardi, AP Writer
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