There may be no political office in Colorado that better illustrates our state’s changes over the last decade than that of Attorney General.
For 21 of the last 30 years, a Republican served as the chief law enforcement officer in Colorado. In 2022, the GOP may all but concede the office to a Democrat.
But for a six-year interruption by Democrat Ken Salazar (1999-2005), Republicans in recent history held a pretty firm grip on the Attorney General’s office. Gale Norton (1991-99), John Suthers (2005-15) and Cynthia Coffman (2015-19) kept the AG’s chair warm for the GOP until Democrat Phil Weiser easily defeated Republican George Brauchler in 2018 (Suthers, in fact, is the second-longest serving AG in state history).
Weiser is running for re-election in 2022 and raising record sums of money for his campaign. Through Q3 of this year, Weiser had raised $2.2 million for the cycle, ending the month of September with more than $2 million in the bank — a feat made all the more impressive considering the $625 contribution limits for the race.
Republicans, meanwhile, don’t even have a potential candidate for the job. For months, it was rumored that 18th JD District Attorney John Kellner would likely be the Republican candidate for AG. But from what we hear, Kellner recently decided not to seek the GOP nomination in 2022. Last summer, former state lawmaker and prosecutor Mark Waller made a similar decision to skip the AG’s race after months of deliberation. Former U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, who seemed like the most logical 2022 choice for Republicans, closed the door on that idea earlier this year.
Republicans will surely nominate someone for AG in 2022, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the GOP won’t be spending much time, money, or energy on defeating Weiser. The Republican Attorney General’s Association (RAGA) has the money to swoop in and fund most of the media buys for a GOP candidate. At some point, however, the lift just becomes too big to make sense; RAGA would have to foot the bill for just about everything given the lack of time for a GOP candidate to raise money.
It is not illogical that Republicans haven’t found a real candidate for AG. Weiser has proven to be an active and adept AG, leaving no obvious narrative to spin for why he should be voted out. The fact that Weiser will likely add another big chunk of money to his warchest in Q4 makes a serious challenge that much more daunting.
If Republicans don’t present a viable candidate for Attorney General by mid-January, it probably means that the GOP is just going to throw some schmuck to the wolves in order to prevent Weiser from having the 2022 ballot all to himself. This isn’t a scenario many political observers would have predicted a decade ago, but that’s the new reality for Republicans in Colorado.