August 14 2006, 9:51 AM
One of the contested races that hasn't gotten much coverage is that for Colorado Attorney General. Democrat Fern O'Brien is challenging the Republican incumbent John Suthers. The Aspen Daily News today profiles O'Brien and her platform and will do the same for Suthers later in the week. The Attorney General is our state's top law enforcement officer. But the office handles much more than just state-wide crime. It also handles regulatory matters, like water and land rights and consumer protection. Of course, often they overlap. O'Brien notes:
"Mortgage fraud is rampant in Colorado. We have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. The fraudulent aspect of selling mortgages that are much bigger than people can afford will ultimately affect the capital market. All of us need to be concerned in making sure there is integrity in the mortgage process. I was speaking to a young veteran who told me there are predatory lenders who literally line the streets outside of Fort Carson. We really have to protect our elders, our soldiers and all Coloradans from predatory business practices," she said.O'Brien doesn't hesitate to express her views on gun control and abortion:
O'Brien says she both supports a person's right to own a gun as well as a woman's right to choose whether she should have an abortion. "Being protected by the Constitution and protecting the Constitution so it protects us is the most important thing we can do. We can't lose sight of that," she said.O'Brien's experience is mostly in the corporate realm. Suthers, on the other hand, has spent almost his entire career as a criminal prosecutor or in corrections , where he was Executive Director of the Colorado prison system. He became Attorney General in 2004 when Gov. Owens appointed him to succeed Ken Salazar when Salazar was elected U.S. Senator. O'Brien also has a position on immigration:
Touching on illegal immigration, O'Brien said borders must be secured, and laws on the books must be enforced. "But it's impossible to round up 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants," O'Brien said. "We have to find some way to get them on the tax rolls."O'Brien's views on crime and prisons are apt to differ markedly from those of John Suthers. Individual rights are high priority for her.
"I want to keep government out of private life," O'Brien said. "This would apply to health care, abortion and end-of-life decisions." O'Brien would battle crime and keep drugs out of schools. But she would give equal importance to keeping people out of the criminal-justice system in the first place. Education and diversion programs are part of the solution, she said. "It costs $20,000 a year per inmate to keep criminals in prison," O'Brien said.Suthers, by contrast, is an ardent opponent of the initiative to legalize adult possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Suthers is working with Gov. Bill Owens and top police around the state to establish a political committee to persuade voters that [SAFER's Mason] Tvert's campaign is misguided. "I find this group's message particularly troubling," Suthers says. "It's a moral relativism message that we have two evils, and [in their assessment] marijuana is a lesser evil than alcohol, so [they] promote that evil. There's another alternative here: Let's promote sobriety as an alternative to intoxication of any form."Suthers also cheered the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision denying parolees the right to vote. This promises to be a race where the candidates are so different that there will be a clear choice for voters. Stay tuned, we'll have more coverage of it.