THORNTON, Colo. (AP) — The suburban Denver congressional district that held one of the nation’s closest contests 10 years ago is gearing up for another nail-biter.
This is where three-term Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter is trying to hang on to his seat against a well-funded — and well-known — candidate in Joe Coors Jr., a member of the famous beer-brewing family whose name adorns the Colorado Rockies baseball stadium.
That old saying that every vote counts? This is a place where it’s been proven to be a fact — and often repeated. If you’re running for the 7th Congressional District, which surrounds Denver with working-class suburbs, you know that Republican Bob Beauprez won the seat in 2002 with 121 votes. It was the district’s first congressional election.
Perlmutter, 59, has shown himself to be tough for Republicans to beat since being elected in 2006. He’s racked up victories that have exceeded 10-point margins every time he’s been re-elected. Perlmutter said recently he believes his campaign has made headway with early voting.
“But, this is still a race that’s too close for comfort for me, and so we’re just working our fannies off, as you can see,” Perlmutter said last week at an event in Thornton encouraging volunteers to get out the vote for President Barack Obama and himself.
Coors, 70, also sees a tight contest in his first foray into politics. He said he keeps reminding himself of Beauprez.
“It’s a horse race,” Coors said after knocking on doors in an Arvada neighborhood. The margin of victory in this district can be so close, that both campaigns know that every time they go on such neighborhood walks they could be reaching the 121 voters that can make the difference.
Perlmutter said part of the reason the race is so competitive is because Coors has been able to use his own money. Coors has spent $4.2 million on the race, and $3.1 million is his money, according to the campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets.org. In contrast, Perlmutter has spent $2.6 million and has contributed no money himself.
“The Coors name and all the money he’s put in has made it a very formidable race,” he said.
Coors said as a rookie in politics, he’s had to spend so much money to have a shot against Perlmutter.
“I really feel committed to changing things in Washington,” he said. He has often repeated that his desire to be in Congress stems from wanting to preserve the American Dream that helped his great-grandfather Adolph Coors, founder of the Coors brewing dynasty. Coors has also said frequently that he’s worried about the growing national debt.
For his part, Perlmutter has tried to persuade voters by promoting his accomplishments, like advancing construction of the VA Medical Center in Aurora. He’s criticized Coors for his past support for a “personhood measure” to ban abortions in Colorado — even though Coors has distanced himself from the idea and it’s not on the ballot this year.
Perlmutter has also touted his support for renewable energy projects, though that has opened him for criticism from Coors and triggered some of the testier exchanges in the race.
Coors’ campaign has blasted Perlmutter for supporting an Obama administration loan for $528 million to the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra. Perlmutter’s campaign has countered by questioning Coors business acumen by brining attention to his involvement in a 2002 family investment that threw $40 million into a scheme that promised a 75-percent-a-week return. It turned out to be a Ponzi scam.
Redistricting last year gave a slight voter registration boost to Republicans, but Democrats still have the advantage. And both sides have to aggressively court unaffiliated voters. They’re 36.4 percent of the district. Democrats outnumber Republicans 34.1 percent to 28.5 percent.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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