Republican George Brauchler is considering jumping from Colorado’s crowded gubernatorial primary to a run for attorney general after Republican incumbent Cynthia Coffman announced Wednesday she was switching to the governor’s race, his campaign said.
Coffman’s long-anticipated move leaves the attorney general race without a Republican candidate at the same time the GOP field for governor is approaching double digits, following former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s entry into the gubernatorial primary a week earlier.
“The dynamics of the race have changed,” Brauchler campaign advisor Sean Tonner told Colorado Politics. “George and his team are evaluating that. George’s phone has been blowing up today from folks concerned about Republicans holding the attorney general’s seat. He’s been listening to their calls and pleas.”
“Right now, he’s running for governor, and he’s running full steam ahead,” Tonner said, adding that Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, plans to make a decision soon.
“He’s going to evaluate the best course of action not only for himself but also for Colorado.”
If Brauchler shifts races, it won’t be the first jolt in a lengthy and protean primary season.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat, launched a campaign for governor in April, then withdrew from the race in July, saying he wasn’t going to seek a seventh term in Congress, but then announced in August he was running for re-election.
Other Republicans have said in recent months they were weighing bids for attorney general if Coffman got in the governor’s race — a possibility she first suggested in July — but one made clear Wednesday that he isn’t considering it any more and hasn’t been for some time.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who said months ago that he might run for attorney general if the seat opened up, is “unequivocally not running for AG,” a campaign spokesman told Colorado Politics in an email. “He’s running for re-election to Congress and is eager to earn the votes of the great people of the 4th Congressional District.”
State Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, said last week that he was “thinking seriously” about a run for attorney general — pending an announcement by Coffman that she wouldn’t be seeking a second term — and hoped to make his plans known within a couple of weeks.
On Wednesday, George Leing, Colorado’s Republican National Committeeman, said he’s looking at getting in the attorney general race.
“It’s a very important race, and I’m looking at it seriously, with an eye to determine what we’re doing in the near term,” he told Colorado Politics.
Leing, a lawyer who has worked in the private equity and high tech fields, lost a 2014 bid challenging U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in the 2nd Congressional District by about 7 points. He had the distinction that year of amassing more votes than any other losing congressional candidate in the country.
Polis is one of five Democrats running for the office held by term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The other candidates are Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsburg.
In addition to Brauchler, Coffman and Tancredo, Republican candidates for governor include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, businessman and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell, investment banker Doug Robinson, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, former county Trump campaign official Steve Barlock and former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez.
Five Democrats are in the race for attorney general — former University of Colorado Law School dean Phil Weiser, state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, 1st Judicial District prosecutor Michael Dougherty, former federal prosecutor Amy Padden and Denver attorney Brad Levin.
Whoever gets in the Republican primary for attorney general could have some catching up to do on fundraising. By himself, Weiser, a former Obama administration official, reported raising nearly $725,000 in contributions since May and had $680,000 in the bank at the end of September — many times the roughly $42,000 Coffman had on hand going into October.
While Brauchler’s fundraising hasn’t led the pack among gubernatorial candidates, he had nearly $175,000 in the bank at the end of the last quarter and, according to state law, could transfer that to seed a campaign for attorney general. (Likewise, Coffman can shift her balance to the governor’s race.)