What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump…

Q: Politically-speaking, was Brauchler helped or hindered by the outcome of the Aurora Shooting Trial?

A: There’s no ignoring the bottom line here: Brauchler sought the death penalty, and he didn’t get it. That’s a loss in anyone’s book, and it’s intellectually dishonest to argue otherwise. Soon after the Aurora jury declined to recommend the death penalty for James Holmes, we wrote in this space that Brauchler was “damaged goods” politically. No amount of sugarcoating will change the fact that Brauchler failed to reach his own standard for success in this trial.

Brauchler has been making the rounds on the talk-radio circuit, trying to convince whoever will listen that most of the members of the jury supported the death penalty, but it’s a weak argument; nobody wants to hear about how many minutes the Denver Broncos held the lead in a game before ultimately losing. If you have to explain why you failed to achieve your desired outcome, it’s a loss. Period.

Brauchler’s argument also fails because it is well known that he could have accepted a plea agreement years ago that would have prevented the public spectacle of a trial with the same outcome – life in prison for James Holmes. On the same day that the jury declined to pursue the death penalty, 9NEWS devoted an entire story on the Tweets of Jordan Ghawi, the brother of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi. Remember, we’re not talking about political commentators questioning Brauchler’s “political ambition” – these are victims and family members reaching their own conclusion.

Q: Okay, but what about the trial in general? Doesn’t Brauchler benefit politically because of all the media attention on the trial?

George Brauchler and TwitterA: Yes and no. Brauchler is certainly a more recognizable name today than he was two years ago, but not all press is good press, and Brauchler made some high-profile mistakes that will dog him for the rest of his political career. In early June, Brauchler was publicly rebuked by Judge Samour for Tweeting during the trial.

“If you’re bored, and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you’re welcome to leave,” scolded Samour.

Brauchler apologized, but not before offering a lame excuse that he thought he was texting someone rather than Tweeting; it doesn’t make your apology sound better to add that you don’t know how to use your cell phone. Of more significance is the fact that Brauchler’s courtroom Tweet was marked as an official court exhibit and led directly to the dismissal of three jurors for discussing media coverage of the trial (which also led to this quote from a juror’s husband that will no doubt resurface in Brauchler’s political future: That Idiot’s Tweeting.”) A formal complaint was later filed with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel alleging that Brauchler violated “professional conduct rules” by Tweeting during the trial.

Three jurors were replaced by alternates in the aftermath of Brauchler’s courtroom Tweeting, but to what extent did that influence the outcome of the trial? We may get the answer to that question soon, as jurors begin granting interviews to local and national media outlets.

None of this will be helpful for Brauchler’s political future…and that’s without noting that Brauchler may have been “trial Tweeting” on previous occasions. Check out this Tweet from Larry Ryckman of the Denver Post back on May 8 (Day 9 of the trial):


Q: George Brauchler is being courted by Republicans to run for Senate in 2016, but he’s always had his eye on a bid for Governor in 2018. What should he do next?

A: It is no secret that Brauchler has long had his eye on running for Governor, an idea that first surfaced in 2014. It would have been premature for Brauchler to challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper last year, but it makes a lot more sense when Hick is term-limited in 2018.

If Brauchler takes a pass on running for Senate in 2016, he should have little trouble winning re-election as Arapahoe County District Attorney instead. Running for re-election in 2016 before making the jump to higher office seems to make more sense than betting your entire career on a difficult Senate challenge. This is particularly true when you put the 2016 race in historical perspective: Only once in the last 40 years have incumbent senators from the same state and same political party lost re-election in consecutive election cycles.

Those are not good odds.

Remember, a big part of the reason that Brauchler is being courted to run for U.S. Senate is because Republicans don’t have anybody else to ask. The plan was not to wait for Brauchler to finish with the Aurora Trial because he is the GOP’s overwhelming preference; had things gone according to plan, Republicans would have already had a top candidate running for Senate by now.

Should Brauchler wait to seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018, he would likely face a tough Republican Primary battle with State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. But is that a more daunting challenge than trying to unseat a sitting U.S. Senator in a Presidential election year?

Which race would you choose?

12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. FrankUnderwood says:

    Maybe Steve House will recruit him to run a primary against Cynthia. That would be rich.

  2. Andrew Carnegie says:

    Bennet's approval ratings are dismal.

    Brauchler has a good shot at being Colorado's second Republican Senator.

    • Moderatus says:

      Better than good. That's why the libs have to attack him early. Broadcasting who the Democrats fear is one of the biggest reasons I read this blog…

      • FrankUnderwood says:

        Have to atack him early?  WTF……We libs didn't sit in that courtroom and tweet during a major death penalty case. We libs didn't turn down an offer to plead guilty with a sentence of life without parole so Georgie Boy could pursue his elusive death sentence all to the tune of millions of taxpayers' dollars combined with puting the surviving victims and the families of those murdered through the ordeal of four-month trial.

        You fools will be better off with Daryl Glenn as your candidate than Brauchler. Hell, even Ellen Roberts would be a more credible candidate.

      • ajb says:

        If that were true Kasich wouldn't be muddling around at the bottom of the polls with Trumptastic at the top. Seriously, Kasich would wipe the floor with Clinton, but you true believers would never vote for him. Oops, I forgot. You CAN'T vote for him. You can't vote for anyone. The Central Committee has already decided for you. Enjoy the primary, Loser.

      • OrangeFree says:

        Two (and a half) face-value observations:
        1) Bennet's not Udall, and will run a smarter campaign. Brauchler's no Gardner. Gardner was a happy warrior. So far, Brauchler has come off as a sneering partisan when he enters the fray. 

        2) This is a Presidential election year. Even in a wave, midterm election, Gardner only managed 48 percent. The electorate will be much different this time around, and will favor Democrats in general. 

        That being said, Brauchler is still a strong candidate, and the nomination would be his if he decided to run. My guess, though, is that he'll wait two years and run for Governor. Open seat, and no high profile Democrat waiting in the wing. He strikes me more as an Executive type than a Legislator type, anyway. 

        • Peromyscus says:

          "a sneering partisan" – too right!  Brauchler learned well from his mentor, Dan Caplis.  Those two even speak in the same cadence, with the same auto-phrasing ("intellectually honest" is my fave).  George seems eager to accept the local-GOP-wannabe-wunderkind mantle from Dan – but is Caplis ready to give it up?



        • DaftPunk says:

          Beware Cary Kennedy!

  3. Gadfly says:

    Brauchler has a tendency to play fast and loose with the truth.

    For example he claimed the Holmes defense team did not appeal for fear that the death penalty might be back on table.  Simply not true and George Brauchler as an attorney knew that it wasn't true.  It just served his interests to lie. And, no reporter called him on it so I guess he was right



  4. Progressicat says:

    The DP thinks Senate, or at least that’s the trial balloon they’re floating. Is the DP our Fox News?

  5. Half Glass Full says:

    Speaker Brauchler?

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