This fall’s race for state attorney general pits Republican incumbent John Suthers against Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, whose contrasting positions promise to give voters a clear-cut choice come November. This spring, Garnett spoke to 5280 about what he’d do differently as AG and why, as a Democrat, he can’t be labeled as just another Boulder liberal.

What would you bring to the attorney general’s office that John Suthers hasn’t?

I have a different vision of what the office should be than John does. The office can have a significant impact on public safety, and on protecting the marketplace, consumers, and the environment. I think the incumbent has let himself get distracted and be out of touch on all those issues, which has been best exemplified by him occasionally wandering into purely partisan issues, as he did with the health-care lawsuit. If you’re going to enter into litigation on behalf of the state, it should be because it clearly affects the broad base of citizens, not because it appeals to a particular political faction or party.

How will you overcome the “Boulder liberal” perception that might arise in the rest of the state?

The reality is, Boulder County does law enforcement well. We’ve had five straight murder trials since December 2008 where we’ve gotten guilty as charged, which has never happened in Boulder County before, and we did more jury trials last year than ever before. We have clear priorities, we keep the public safe, and if it’s a serious crime that involves violence, corruption, or significant economic damages, we don’t hesitate to ask for significant prison time. We also have a very progressive drug court system that advocates rehabilitation when it’s appropriate.

So how would the state be different with you as AG?

[Suthers has] been more laissez-faire than I would be. We’ll be looking for cases we need to pursue and not just wait for them to come to us, and we’ll be very proactive about education, consumer fraud, ID theft, and protecting the environment. In this climate of shrinking budgets, it’s essential for law enforcement to focus on priorities without spending more money than we need to.