AG candidate makes stop in Grand County

Michael Dougherty, the current Jefferson and Gilpin County Deputy District Attorney, is throwing his hat into the ring to become Colorado's next attorney general.
Courtesy Photo |

Despite being more than a year away from the 2018 state election, candidates are already throwing their hats into the proverbial ring.

Among them is Michael Dougherty, deputy district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin counties.

Dougherty, a Democrat, is running for State Attorney General and comes to the stump with an extensive background working as a prosecutor in New York City and Colorado.

“I am running because now, more than ever, Colorado needs a strong leader who is committed to doing the right thing,” Dougherty said while on a campaign tour of Grand County. “I know first hand how that office works. To me it is absolutely critical to be motivated by what is right as opposed to what is politically convenient.”

Dougherty, who has been endorsed by Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin, outlined what his priorities would be if elected, specifically highlighting the environment, consumer protection, and criminal justice as his main areas of focus.

As Dougherty sees it, the role of the state’s attorney general is to serve as the people’s lawyer, as he said. “To make sure individual rights are protected, to preserve the water and environment of Colorado. To take on the federal government when necessary and to provide support to local district attorney’s and law enforcement.”

The environment was an issue Dougherty returned to several times, noting it as one of the most crucial issues.

“We have a federal government contemplating pushing federal lands onto the states,” he remarked. “That would be an unfunded mandate and would create a real burden on us.”

When asked for his take on litigation relating to the Gold King Mine spill from 2015 and potential litigation following that incident Dougherty was decidedly cagier. He noted his belief that any litigation related to the incident would be wrapped up before the next attorney general would take office but said he would fight hard to make sure Colorado is not found liable.

Dougherty also touched on the current state of marijuana laws in Colorado.

As the father of two small children, Dougherty voted against Amendment 64 out of concern for the impacts legalization of marijuana would have on children but readily acknowledged that it hasn’t been as problematic as he once thought it would be.

Despite his initial opposition, however, Doughtery said he would defend the law as attorney general.

“The voters made it clear they wanted marijuana legalized,” he said.

Dougherty went on to say he applauds recent efforts by the governor and state legislature to curtail the black and grey market for marijuana in the state.

“We continue to see violent offenses committed as a result of the black and grey market,” he said. “I want to work to eliminate those markets.”

On immigration, and the ongoing controversy surrounding so-called sanctuary cities and states, of which Colorado is one, Dougherty highlighted his experience working with undocumented immigrants who were victims of other crimes.

“I feel very strongly that people should not be arrested at the courthouse,” Dougherty said. “That is a place where people go for justice. Regardless of legal status we want victims and witnesses to come forward when they are victimized.

“I don’t think it is hard to imagine the impact that is having on victims and their reluctance to come forward. When that happens we allow perpetrators to remain in the community and justice goes unsecured.”

Dougherty also said he does not view Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests for undocumented immigrants to be legally binding.

“It should be a federal warrant,” Dougherty said. “We will comply with a warrant. But a request… is not something we have to honor.”

Hailing from New York Dougherty worked in the Manhattan Attorney General’s office from the late 90s through 2009. He served on the executive staff and oversaw the department’s budget, day-to-day operations, and around 1,200 personnel. During that time he also was Deputy Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit and handled serious felony cases including homicide prosecutions.

Dougherty was proud of his extensive courtroom experience, something he feels is essential for anyone elected to the office of Attorney General.

“You should know where to sit when you walk into the court room,” he said.

In 2009, Dougherty was hired by then Colorado Attorney General Republican John Suthers to head up the Colorado DNA Justice Review Project. That effort led to the exoneration of Robert Dewey in 2012, a man wrongfully convicted of a Grand Junction area murder in 1996.

Dougherty is not the only individual to announce plans to run for Attorney General, however. Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat representing the Thornton area, and Phil Weiser, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and dean of Colorado University’s law school, have also announced.

Still waiting in the wings is incumbent Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican. Coffman has yet to announce her plans for the 2018 election cycle and has said she is considering a run for the governor’s office instead.

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