Deputy DA forces surprise primary in 18th Judicial District

The Colorado Statesman

It looks like there will be a Republican primary in the 18th Judicial District’s district attorney race after all.

Deputy District Attorney Leslie Hansen successfully petitioned onto the ballot for the 18th JD’s district attorney race after she failed to receive enough delegates at the district’s nominating assembly last month. The secretary of state’s office certified 1,487 of the submitted signatures, well exceeding the requirement of 1,000 signatures.

At the 18th JD nominating assembly on March 26, Hansen received 27 percent of the vote in the four-way contest, just shy of the 30 percent threshold needed to secure a place on the ballot.

Denver attorney and JAG officer George Brauchler earned 47 percent of the vote at the assembly, in what some called an upset victory.

Hansen said she was “very pleased” to make the ballot, and that she was encouraged to petition ahead by delegates at the assembly, as well as the two other candidates who failed to meet the 30 percent delegate threshold.

Brauchler said that he had hoped he would be able to focus his efforts and resources on the general election given his “overwhelming victory,” and that he could not think of any other time when a candidate for district attorney has petitioned onto the ballot despite losing at the nominating assembly.

In response, Hansen said she didn’t think it was rare for someone to go through the nominating assembly and still petition on to the ballot.

She questioned Brauchler’s decision to run in a primary against the 18th JD’s incumbent district attorney, Republican Carol Chambers, in 2008. Chambers defeated Brauchler in that election by a margin of 5,377 votes, receiving 58.05 percent of the vote to Brauchler’s 41.95 percent.

Hansen has compared Brauchler to the Democratic candidate, Judge Ethan Feldman, both in her campaign literature and at debates. She draws the comparison on the basis that both Brauchler and Feldman have criticized Chambers’ use of the habitual offender statute, which allows for harsher penalties for repeat offenders.

Brauchler described that criticism as “political spin by somebody who’s desperate to win this race.”

He said the habitual criminal statute is a “very powerful tool, when appropriately used by a district attorney exercising discretion,” but pointed out that the statute has been used in the 18th JD more than all of the other jurisdictions combined, and that the downturn in crime for the 18th JD is comparable to the many other parts of Colorado.

“If the argument is that filing habitual offender clauses at every opportunity actually drives crime down, then we ought to have a negative crime rate,” Brauchler said.

For her part, Hansen pointed to rising murder and robbery related crime rates in Denver.

“There is a benefit to being tough on crime,” Hansen said. “[Brauchler] has stated he thinks [the statute] is overused. He has used that word, ‘overused,’ and so has the Democrat.”

The Republican campaign season leading up to the nominating assembly was both crowded and long-winded, with four candidates participating in 13 debates across the district, which encompasses Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties.

Despite the numerous candidate debates that have already taken place, Brauchler said he would never turn down an opportunity to debate his opponent, although he questioned what else was left to reveal to the voters in terms of the differences between the candidates.

Ben@coloradostatesman.com