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Publish Date: 10/8/2006

Two candidates challenge Suthers for AG


DENVER — Democrat Fern O’Brien says her background as a businesswoman and private-practice attorney would bring a “real-life” perspective needed in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

But Republican John Suthers, the current attorney general who’s seeking election to a full four-year term, says, “I make no apologies for my public legal career.”

Suthers — a former deputy district attorney and district attorney for the 4th Judicial District, which includes El Paso and Teller counties — was serving as U.S. attorney for Colorado when Gov. Bill Owens tapped him in late 2004 to fill the vacancy created by Attorney General Ken Salazar’s election to the U.S. Senate.

Gunbarrel resident O’Brien has worked for a litigator in a large New York City law firm and now is a partner at Dietze and Davis. In her current law practice, she focuses on business, real estate and finance.

Longmont attorney Dwight Harding, a Libertarian, also is seeking the attorney general seat.

According to Harding’s Web site, his practice has an emphasis on income tax, probate, bankruptcy, traffic and misdemeanor criminal offenses, and limited federal bankruptcy trial issues.

O’Brien has said she’d be an attorney general “who understands that action is required” to “protect the people, natural resources and economy of our beautiful state.”

She’s promised “to be an outspoken advocate for Colorado’s families, children and seniors”; to “protect our business communities and our economy”; and to “demand that those who are responsible for the regulation of our insurance, health care and public utilities are held to the highest standards of performance and accountability.”

Suthers has said that since taking office, “I have worked tirelessly to protect Colorado’s people, land and water.”

Suthers has promised that if he wins the election, he’ll “continue to identify and stop illegal scams on our citizens; protect our children from sexually violent predators operating over the Internet; pursue and punish wrongdoers and polluters; and prevent out-of-state water grabs.”

Meanwhile, one of the issues that the major-party candidates have staked out is how their differing backgrounds would help them as attorney general in the coming four years.

“I started working when I was 15 at a fast-food joint for $1.10 an hour, and I’ve been working ever since,” O’Brien said. “Before I became a lawyer, I was a business person, so I know what it’s like to try to meet payrolls and I know what it’s like to try to afford health insurance for my employees and to rein in the ever-rising costs of running a business.”

O’Brien said Suthers has been “a government employee” much of his career, and that could cause a person to “lose something in terms of being in touch with what everybody else is going through.”

O’Brien said she’d “bring a real-world perspective to the attorney general’s office.”

“I will be accountable to all the people, and not just the special interests,” she said, adding that she’d also be “a very pro-business attorney general.”

Suthers said he has all of the experience O’Brien claims for herself — “plus.”

“My first foray in free enterprise was when I started a landscaping business when I was in eighth grade and hired other (classmates) to help me,” he said.

Suthers said he was in private practice himself for 10 years, and that his responsibilities as partner in a law firm included “making payrolls and all that kind of stuff,” as well as representing business clients.

In the public sector, “I haven’t been some mid-level bureaucrat,” he said.

Suthers said he’s already headed three of the largest “public law offices” in Colorado: the Colorado Springs-based district attorney’s office, the U.S. attorney’s office and, now, the state attorney general’s office.

He noted that he’d also served as an executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, one of the largest state agencies, early in Owens’ administration.

Said Suthers: “When it comes to protecting Colorado’s people, land and water, experience counts. And I have a resume that I think prepares me, in frankly unprecedented fashion,” to continue being attorney general.

 
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