Coors Officially Enters Senate Race

Posted April 13, 2004 at 2:17pm

Brewing magnate Pete Coors (R) formally entered the Colorado Senate race today with a cadre of powerful elected officials, including Gov. Bill Owens (R), by his side.

“I owe my country a debt of gratitude and want to serve my country,” said Coors at his announcement.

He will now face off against former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) in an Aug. 10 primary. The winner will likely face state Attorney General Ken Salazar (D) in the fall. Salazar has only nominal primary opposition.

Coors is currently chairman of the Coors Brewing Co., the third largest brewery in the United States. It reported net sales of $4 billion in 2003 alone.

While Coors has said he will try to raise money from individual donors, he is also expected to contribute heavily from his own substantial bank account.

He enters the race with nearly universal name identification due to his high-profile presence as the public face of the brewery. Coors has appeared in several commercials to promote the brand but those will be pulled now that he is a candidate for federal office.

Coors’ decision brings to an end the search by establishment Colorado Republicans for a candidate to challenge Schaffer, who some consider too conservative to defeat Salazar.

Led by Owens, this recruitment effort has been rocky at best, often playing out publicly to the detriment of the governor’s image. In fact, Owens rescinded his pledge to endorse Schaffer in order to throw his political weight behind Coors.

Now, Coors is clearly the choice of so-called institutional Republicans as Owens, retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and retiring Rep. Scott McInnis all appeared with him on the state Capitol steps.

Unmoved by that show of support for his rival, Schaffer released a statement affirming his commitment to the race.

“The people of Colorado deserve a full, vigorous debate on the issues that matter most,” said Schaffer spokeswoman Elizabeth Blackney. “At the end of the day Bob Schaffer will be elected as Colorado’s next United States Senator.”

The news release also touted the support that Schaffer has lined up from Sen. Wayne Allard (R) as well as former Colorado GOP Sens. Bill Armstrong and Hank Brown.

Conservative Centennial State Reps. Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave are also supporting Schaffer.

Retired Air Force Academy law professor Dan O’Bryant (R) dropped his Senate bid Monday, throwing his support behind Schaffer.

Coors’ announcement came as Colorado holds its caucuses in 3,700 precincts statewide.

Local caucuses, which are a big deal on the GOP side particularly, are set for Tuesday night in 3,700 precincts across the state. Any candidate receiving at least 30 percent of the vote at the caucuses receives a place on the primary ballot. A candidate can bypass the caucus process completely, however, and petition their way onto the ballot through the collection of signatures.