Phil Weiser. Courtesy photo.

 

Former University of Colorado Law Dean Phil Weiser has secured the Democratic nomination for Colorado attorney general in a nail-biter of a primary.

The vote was so close that Weiser’s opponent, state Rep. Joe Salazar, did not concede to Weiser until June 30—five days after the primary. Weiser, who remains on the law faculty, secured 50.43 percent of the vote against Salazar’s 49.57. A mere 5,000 votes separated the two candidates, with 590,000 cast across the state.

Weiser will face Republican candidate George Brauchler, a district attorney, in the November general election.

“This will be a difficult election—only two Democrats have won this office in Colorado in the past 70 years,” Weiser said in a victory statement on his campaign website. “But our supporters are energized and our campaign will work tirelessly to share our vision for how this office can improve the lives of all Coloradans.”

Weiser noted that Democratic voters are fired up and their turnout for the attorney general race outpaced Republicans by more than 179,000.

Weiser ran the Boulder law school from 2011 to 2016. In 1999 he founded the university’s Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship—an interdisciplinary effort that aims to help Boulder’s startup scene and develop technology policy. As dean, he doubled student scholarships and decreased average student indebtedness. Weiser was appointed by President Barack Obama as deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in 2009 and stayed two years before returning to the law school as dean.

Though he has not previously held elected office, Weiser said on Monday that running a law school proved useful in running a successful political campaign.

“The most important quality is building authentic relationships around the state,” he said. “That started as a professor, building a successful center and it accelerated as dean. It also helped that I brought a track record of proven leadership, bringing applications up at [Colorado Law] when they fell 40 percent nationwide.”

Weiser announced his candidacy in May 2017, and had made economic growth, consumer protection, and criminal justice centerpieces of his platform. He secured the endorsement of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar.

Weiser has proven an adept fundraiser as well. He has raised more than $1 million for his campaign, far outpacing Salazar, who has served three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives. That spending helped Weiser overcome his lack of name recognition.

Weiser isn’t the only legal academic voters will have a chance to cast a ballot for in the fall. University of California, Irvine School of Law professor Katie Porter won the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, narrowly defeating a colleague on the law faculty.