With just about 100 days before the general election, attorney general hopeful Phil Weiser returned to Montrose to highlight the necessity of standing up for the state’s laws in the face of Washington’s actions.
“When you’re in a general election, the substantive difference on issues becomes much more pronounced than in a primary election,” said Weiser, a former deputy assistant U.S. attorney general.
The Democrat is seeking election as Colorado’s attorney general. He faces off against Republican George Brauchler, the district attorney in the 18th Judicial District and former gubernatorial candidate.
Brauchler will host a meet and greet from noon to 2 p.m. Monday, at 242 E. Main St., among other area stops next week.
Weiser, who visited Montrose Wednesday for a private fundraiser, ticked off major differences between the direction he would take the Attorney General’s Office and the course he believes Brauchler would take it. Climate change, Roe v. Wade, background checks on guns and health care were among the issues cited.
“When it comes to standing up to the federal government for Colorado’s values and interests, there’s also a big difference,” Weiser said.
The basic role of state attorney general is to defend the state’s laws, however, these and related issues can intersect, or even conflict, with federal matters.
“It’s important to have an attorney general committed to defending and enforcing our laws and I’m the candidate who believes in them,” he said.
Big on Weiser’s list was Colorado’s attempt to adopt its own fuel mileage/efficiency standards, in response to efforts to reduce them.
Gov. John Hickenlooper in a June executive order called for a state program for low-emission vehicles that incorporates requirements under a similar California program. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was directed to propose such a rule sometime this month, for possible adoption as a regulation by year’s end.
The order was heavily criticized by Montrose auto dealers and local legislators.
On Thursday, the Trump Administration moved to reduce emissions standards, which prompted 19 states to consider legal action, according to published reports.
“We need an attorney general who will defend the right of Colorado to address climate change at a time when the EPA is not doing its job,” Weiser said Wednesday, before news of the administration’s action broke.
He also said the AG should act in response to actions by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he said is not protecting those with preexisting medical conditions from discrimination in the insurance market, despite the Affordable Care Act.
“I believe in the rule of law and the Affordable Care Act is clear on this point. Congress passed the law. The Supreme Court upheld it,” Weiser said.
“If Jeff Sessions won’t defend and enforce the law, we need an attorney general in Colorado who will do that and protect people who depend on this protection. In some cases, it’s a matter of life and death.”
If elected attorney general, Weiser said he would use every tool in the box to protect voters’ decision to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older. Amendment 64 allows small quantities of pot for recreational use. Federally, the substance remains illegal and Sessions cancelled a previous policy of non-interference in states that have legalized it. Legislation introduced last month by U.S. Sens Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, could ultimately protect states like Colorado.
As a result of Colorado’s pot laws, people are not being jailed for merely using it or simple possession, Weiser said, adding the legal marijuana industry also is generating tax revenue.
Weiser pointed to Eagle County, where the money is being used to help fund mental health services, and to Pueblo, where it is providing scholarship funds.
“We are seeing a lot happen on the federal level that hurts Colorado. It’s up to the attorney general of Colorado to defend our values and interests, even against the federal government,” he said, going on to also cite immigration.
Immigrants brought to the country as children were to be protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; instead, these “Dreamers” are being treated as political pawns despite assurances they would be protected, Weiser said.
A number of states have had their attorneys general challenge what is now happening to Dreamers.
“I would,” said Weiser. “Similarly, I would challenge the separation of families at the border, which is illegal and inhumane.”
On state-specific issues, Weiser said he would like to work with the Legislature to reduce gun-related violence, including work on a “red flag” or “gun restraining order” law. Such a law would allow petitions to courts to remove guns from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Weiser also favors a bump stock ban and said he would continue defending Colorado’s controversial laws pertaining to background checks and magazine limits, which he said are under attack.
Weiser acknowledged all of his views might not be shared by many in Montrose, where Republican registered voters tally in at more than twice the number of registered Democrats.
He said, however, when he considers “innovators” like Montrose Mayor Roy Anderson, party doesn’t matter — citizens deserve an attorney general who listens and collaborates.
“If people are willing to look at my views, look at my approach and get to know me as a person, I’ll be the best attorney general Montrose ever had,” Weiser said.
“When it comes to water, broadband and rising health care costs, I have more experience, a deeper commitment and much better ability to represent the issues that matter to the people of Montrose.”
Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.