Coors taps into CD 7 race

The Colorado Statesman

A retired executive with one of the most famous names in Colorado made his congressional campaign official this week.

Surrounded by family members and Republican officials, Joe Coors, Jr., launched his bid to unseat three-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter before an excited crowd of about 200 at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood on Tuesday.

“Opportunity begins with fixing the economy,” said Coors, after recounting the rags-to-riches story of his great grandfather, German immigrant Adolph Coors — he arrived “as a stowaway on a ship,” the candidate smiled — and saying he worries that his grandchildren might not have the same opportunities he had starting his family and his career. He decided to make his first run for public office “because the American dream is rapidly vanishing as government expands its intrusion in our daily lives.”

State GOP chairman Ryan Call applauds after Coors family foundation director Linda Tafoya introduces Joe Coors, Jr., at his candidacy announcement on Jan. 31 at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood. Coors is running for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the competitive 7th Congressional District.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Coors, 69, is the oldest member of the fourth generation of the Golden-based brewery dynasty. He was president and CEO of CoorsTek, a ceramics manufacturer with 3,500 employees in 14 countries. He currently serves as president of Rolling Hills Country Club in Golden.

“There are two distinct choices for voters this year,” Coors said in his announcement speech. “The first option is to continue the expansion of federal government both in size and scope, placing control of far too many decisions in the hands of bureaucrats. This is the voting record of the incumbent and the liberals in Washington, D.C.

“I believe the best option is the second option,” he continued. “Free enterprise with limited government — that allows men and women to start and grow their businesses as large as their dreams will carry them. This formula has made our economy the largest in the world.”

Republican congressional candidate Joe Coors, Jr., smiles at his wife, Gail, during his campaign announcement on Jan. 31 in Lakewood, after recounting how the couple met as undergraduates at the University of North Carolina. Although the family had an “unwritten rule” to put off marriage until after graduating from college, Coors said, “love won out,” and the two wed. They celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Quoting John F. Kennedy’s inaugural plea to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country?” Coors said contemporary Democrats have forgotten the meaning of the iconic question.

“What Obama and the liberals do not understand — but what I believe Kennedy understood — is that business owners do a lot for their country when they make their payrolls and pay their taxes month after month, week after week,” Coors said.

“My campaign will be based on jobs, the economy, and responsible government spending. I will champion the rights of the individual, and the spirit of the Constitution. I will always champion the greatest freedoms of all: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Democrats fired back immediately, charging that Coors’ inherited wealth and conservative views will make it difficult for him to win a majority in the suburban swing district.

“Ed looks forward to a spirited debate with Joe Coors,” said Perlmutter campaign spokeswoman Leslie Oliver in a statement. “There couldn’t be a more stark contrast. You will have an ultra-wealthy, highly partisan candidate who fights for billionaire tax loopholes and Personhood Amendments against a man who holds meetings in local grocery stores, fights to create and save thousands of jobs in the 7th CD and has the least partisan congressional voting record in Colorado.”

Members of the Coors family watch as Joe Coors, Jr., declares his run for Congress on Jan. 31 at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood. From left are the candidate’s daughter Holly Coors, son Doug Coors, wife Gail Coors and sister-in-law Lee Anderson.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Coors opponents point to a $1,000 contribution from the candidate in 2010 to the campaign supporting Amendment 63, the Personhood initiative, which would have banned abortion and some forms of birth control by defining legal “personhood” as beginning at conception. Voters shot down the ballot measure by a wide margin statewide and by an even wider margin in Jefferson County.

“Ultimately, he won’t able to connect to people’s daily concerns when his focus has lately been on country clubs and his helicopter,” said state Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio in a statement. “No working family in Colorado can relate to such a removed existence when they are thinking about this month’s mortgage, groceries, and the bills that never stop coming.”

It’s clear that Coors’ position as president of the posh Rolling Hills Country Club will be a campaign issue — symbolic of the divide Democrats say exists between Coors and the voters — though conservative blogs delight in pointing out that Perlmutter belonged to the same club and lives in the same tony Applewood neighborhood as Coors. A Perlmutter spokeswoman said the congressman hasn’t belonged to the club for “four or five years,” and, besides, says that isn’t the point.

Although some Democrats raised eyebrows at reports the Coors campaign had enlisted golf carts from the country club to ferry Republicans from far-flung parking spaces to the Coors announcement at Red Rocks, Oliver told The Colorado Statesman that “how Joe uses golf carts is of no concern to us. It’s just another a stark contrast between Ed and Joe. Ed’s focused on creating jobs for the future and moving our country forward while Joe is stuck on the same old tired policies of the past.”

It might be Coors’ first run for office, but he’s no stranger to politics on a grand scale.

His younger brother Pete ran for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2004 but lost to then-Attorney General Ken Salazar after surviving a brutal Republican primary against then-U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Fort Collins. Salazar stepped down four years later to run the U.S. Department of Interior.

The Coors family has played a critical role over the decades to establish and fund the modern conservative movement, including providing initial funding for the Heritage Foundation in the 1970s, and continued support for conservative causes by family members and family-run foundations.

The redrawn 7th CD is marginally more competitive than the one Perlmutter has represented for three terms, but analysts say it still favors a Democratic candidate based on party registration figures and voting performance in recent elections. The district, which encompasses Golden, Lakewood, Arvada, Westminster and Thornton, is made up of 35 percent Democrats and the same share of unaffiliated voters, while Republicans account for 29 percent of total. In what was supposed to be a close race last time around, Perlmutter handily defeated Republican challenger Ryan Frazier by nearly 12 points.

It’s one of four Colorado congressional districts where the party registration numbers are close enough to make it competitive: Democrats hold a 4-point edge in registration over Republicans in the 2nd CD, represented by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, while Republicans have the same advantage in the 3rd CD, represented by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. The new 6th CD, represented by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, is the most closely divided in the state, with Republicans just 1 percentage point ahead of Democrats there.

When rumors of Coors’ bid began to surface — the political blog ColoradoPols.com was the first to report that Coors was testing the waters in early December — the liberal pressure group Progress Now Colorado lobbed some preemptive shots.

“As an heir to the vast Coors fortune, and especially given the Coors family’s long history of lavish support for right-wing political groups, it’s absolutely vital that Joe Coors, Jr., fully disclose his sources of income, taxes paid on that income, and donations made to so-called ‘charities’ — and that he do so for as many years in his past as possible,” said the group’s executive director, Joanne Kron, in one of several releases blasting Coors.

In documents filed this week with the Federal Election Commission, the Coors campaign reported $43,000 raised before the end of 2011, including a $15,000 loan from the candidate.

The total also included $12,500 in contributions from Coors family members.

The Perlmutter campaign reported more than $212,000 in contributions for the 4th quarter, for a total of $884,000 raised this cycle. The campaign had just over $585,000 cash on hand at the end of the year.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com