Guest Commentary: Bernie Buescher – Why Phil Weiser Is the Best AG Candidate for All of Colorado

Guest Commentary: Bernie Buescher – Why Phil Weiser Is the Best AG Candidate for All of Colorado

In 2018, Colorado will have the opportunity to elect a new Attorney General. We deserve an innovative, energetic leader who can make the office work for all Coloradans. As someone who has worked with Phil Weiser and seen what he can do, I know that he is the right choice for our next Attorney General.

I first met Phil in 2011 when he returned to Colorado after working for President Obama as the Senior Advisor on Technology and Innovation in the White House’s National Economic Council. After his tour of duty in Washington (he also served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice), he returned to Colorado to serve as the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School. For Phil, this marked his second return to Colorado after working in Washington. His first such return came in 1999 after serving as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and working as the counsel to the head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

Phil’s leadership as the Dean of the CU Law School got my attention. During his time as Dean, he put the interests of the students above all else, working to lower average indebtedness (it fell $16,000 for students who started after Phil became Dean), increase employment opportunities for our graduates (CU was ranked in the top twenty in this category), promote diversity and inclusiveness (Phil was honored for this work by the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association), and raise the profile of the law school (its ranking rose over 10 places during his Deanship). In doing all of this, Phil was an entrepreneurial leader, engaging the community, bringing national leaders (including Justice Ginsburg) to CU Law, and defying national trends (the applications rate at CU Law rose 10% during a time when they fell 40% nationwide).

Phil’s passion for all of Colorado really impressed me. At CU Law, he encouraged law students to work outside the Denver-Boulder area, providing scholarships to any students who did so. He also created an endowed program (a $7 million endowment) for loan repayment assistance, providing support to pay off student debts for those students who took jobs in under-served areas of Colorado or who went into public services positions. Moreover, he worked with the Colorado District Attorneys Council to enact legislation that created a rural DA fellowship program where recent law school grads went to work in rural DA offices, aiding law enforcement in those areas and providing valuable opportunities to recent law grads. As part of the Silicon Flatirons Center, which he founded, he spearheaded the Startup Colorado initiative, which supports emerging startup communities around our state. Finally, as Dean, Phil traveled all around the state to meet and support alumni.

What makes Phil really exceptional is that he is one of those leaders who takes an entrepreneurial and can-do attitude to problem solving.  All too often, government functions on auto-pilot, continuing to do what it has always done.  Under Phil’s leadership, the Attorney General’s office will be an engine for progress, with an innovative and creative problem-solving mindset that will improve our state and the lives of all Coloradans.  Whatever issue comes up—whether it’s health care, bringing broadband to all parts of our state, protecting our water rights, or reforming our criminal justice system—Phil will be a leader who brings people together, finds creative solutions, and gets things done.

In the White House for President Obama, Phil spearheaded a significant broadband initiative that resulted in bipartisan legislation.  Here in Colorado, he founded (and got me engaged with) the Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, which creates teams of people from the State of Colorado, the City of Denver, and law students to solve cutting edge challenges through entrepreneurial methods. For a great summary of that program, and Phil’s leadership, check out this article.

It’s tempting to grow cynical or feel deflated about the future of our politics and our government. Now, more than ever, we need leaders like Phil, who genuinely care about all Coloradans, bring an innovative spirit and mindset to government, and know how to get things done. That’s why I am supporting him to be our next Attorney General and I encourage you to join me in helping get him elected in 2018.

Bernie Buescher is a lawyer in private practice and the former Deputy Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Representative from Grand Junction, and an entrepreneur.

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