LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Joe Coors is behind on a friendly game of horse. Then he starts sinking baskets and talking about finding a fancy shot to seal the deal.
When the ball emblazoned with the words “The Silver Bullet” bounces off the rim, the 70-year-old chases after the rebound like a man half his age. He makes a hook shot that wins the game – which was to spell E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T, not horse – and then tells a reporter as consolation, “I’ve been doing this far longer than you have.”
While Coors angles for the winning shot on an unfriendly court – the basket outside a Lakewood apartment complex is crooked – his congressional opponent, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, likes to play his poker cards close to the vest.
In a game of Texas Hold ‘em with staff and a reporter, Perlmutter takes his losses in stride. He sees his dwindling chips as a welcome sign that he can soon go home to sleep. But then he wins two games. “I was going, ‘Geez, I was almost done,’” he said.
Perlmutter, a three-term Democrat, has been underestimated before but has fended off tough competition in a competitive district. Perhaps that’s why Republicans nominated Coors, a well-known – and well-funded – candidate with a competitive streak. The contest between the two will come down to whose style goes over best with voters in the competitive working-class suburbs west of Denver.
“It’s one that’s a moderate district no matter how you slice it,” Perlmutter said about the 7th District, created after the 2000 census and held by a Republican until Perlmutter won it in 2006. Over the years, the district has become more Democratic, but redistricting last year gave a slight boost in registration to Republicans and independents.
Registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans 34.1 percent to 28.5 percent, but the path to victory lies with independent voters, who are 36.4 percent of the district.
“Because it’s so evenly split, you have to work for every vote,” Perlmutter said. “It isn’t that you sign up and you got a ‘D’ behind your name, or an “R’ behind your name, and you win.”
The campaigns mirror what political parties are debating on the national stage. Perlmutter’s campaign is criticizing Coors for once financially supporting a “personhood” initiative in Colorado to ban abortion. And they’re using the proposed budget from Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, which significantly changes Medicare, to warn voters that it’s a plan Coors supports.
And then there’s Coors’ wealth.
Coors, the great-grandson of brewery founder Adolph Coors, has financed nearly half of the $1.1 million his campaign has spent so far, according to the campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets.org. Just like Democrats negatively portray Mitt Romney’s wealth, Perlmutter’s office called Coors an “ultra-wealthy, highly partisan” candidate when he announced his entry into the race.
Coors shrugs off the criticism and turns his attention to his vision of limited government.
“Romney gets accused of being too rich, by people who are just as rich. And that’s – you know, Perlmutter’s not poor,” he said. “He wants to take that approach. I just look at his record and say, ‘Do we want more government or not?’”
Coors criticizes Perlmutter for his votes for the 2009 federal stimulus and President Barack Obama’s health care law and against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Perlmutter’s campaign maintains he supports the pipeline and that his votes against bills including the pipeline were for unrelated reasons.
Perlmutter and Coors live a few blocks from each other and grew up in the district. But they’ve taken very different paths to get to this point.
Perlmutter worked in construction with his father while attending college and law school. He was a business attorney before being elected to the state Senate in 1994. In Congress, he has developed the persona of an approachable politician who holds grocery store events and isn’t afraid to have fun. He’s been known to bust out a cartwheel or two.
Poker game aside, Perlmutter is far more interested in telling people about an electronic wristband that shows how much he’s walked since Father’s Day. The wristband was a gift.
On a recent day walking the district, he passed the 500-mile mark.
Coors was born into wealth, but his campaign emphasizes that he’s not a beer baron and was a bit of a black sheep in his family for marrying before finishing college. He’s the former president and CEO of CoorsTek Inc., a worldwide technical ceramics manufacturing company. His television and radio ads, which he financed himself, have him saying, “I’m not a beer.”
Both of Coors’ parents were involved in politics. His father, Joseph, was a University of Colorado regent and member of President Ronald Reagan’s kitchen cabinet. His mother, Holly, was a goodwill ambassador in the 1980s.
But Joe Coors has never been in public office before, and it wasn’t until last fall when he began thinking about running for Congress. He said Republicans started approaching him, including former presidential candidate Michelle Bachman.
“It’s all about the American Dream and the land of opportunity for us, and I see that being just snuffed out by what’s going on back in Washington,” Coors said.
Coors’ campaign pledges include reducing business regulations. Perlmutter argues that while that can be good, there are also dangers, saying that it was “no regulation which allowed Wall Street to run wild.”
Walking the district, Coors is in a hurry to get votes. When a volunteer knocks on a door and gets a response from across the street, Coors runs over. He has a baggie with dog treats in his back pocket, just in case there’s a dog in the house.
- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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