Boulder attorney running for AG

Michael Dougherty

The Colorado attorney general needs to be someone not only with leadership skills, but prosecutorial experience, too.

That’s the opinion of the newest Democrat to enter next year’s primary race for the right to face Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, the Republican who currently holds the seat.

Assuming that Coffman will run for re-election — she hasn’t announced her plans just yet — Boulder attorney Michael Dougherty believes he’s that man.

“Cynthia Coffman will be a tough person to beat, which is why the Democratic Party needs to put forth the best candidate for the general election,” Dougherty said this week after announcing his bid for the seat. “We need an attorney general who has experience as a prosecutor, someone who has worked with law enforcement and is a leader with a strong commitment to doing the right thing.”

Dougherty, 45, came to Colorado from the Manhattan, New York, District Attorney’s Office.

Recruited by former Republican Attorney General John Suthers, with whom Coffman served as chief deputy his entire 10 years in that job, Dougherty came to Colorado in 2009 to head up a new Colorado Justice Review Project.

Suthers, who now is mayor of Colorado Springs, started that project with a $1.2 million federal grant. Its intent is to find any wrongly convicted felons in the state.

“One of the most amazing things about that project is that I had to speak with the elected district attorneys from all around the state in order to secure their permission to go through their case files to determine if their offices had prosecuted anybody who had been part of a wrongful conviction,” said Dougherty, who is the chief deputy district attorney for the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which serves Jefferson and Gilpin counties.

“You can imagine that any one of them may have hesitated or refused the request,” he said. “All 22, every single one of the elected district attorneys, gave us complete and unfettered access to their case files. To me, that highlights the trust that we need to have with the attorney general, the district attorneys and law enforcement.”

That project resulted in the exoneration of Robert Dewey, who spent 18 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murdering a Palisade woman.

Other Democrats who have jumped into the race include Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who practices constitutional and civil rights law.

Also in the race is Phil Weiser, former dean of the University of Colorado Law School who also worked as a deputy assistant attorney general during President Barack Obama’s administration.

A third attorney, Denver lawyer Bradley Levin, also is expected to jump into the race.


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