WASHINGTON — Buoyed by a stronger than expected showing from businessman Joe Coors, Colorado Republicans are riding a wave of momentum in two politically contested House races.
Coors, making a bid for the 7th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Lakewood), has poured $700,000 of his own money into the race and cast himself in TV ads as a deficit cutter and an advocate of a common-sense energy policy.
Coors’ financial might and bid for the political center have raised the eyebrows of national Democrats. Andy Stone, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC, said in an interview that Coors has spent “a ton of money and is attempting an election-year makeover.”
Coors, the 70-year-old grandson of beer magnate Adolph Coors, also has the advantage of a familiar and well-regarded surname. Nearly 96 percent of registered voters in the northeastern Denver-suburbs based district in July said they have heard of Coors, according to Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi.
While national Democrats responded to a poll that showed Coors ahead by running a barrage of negative ads against the GOP challenger, they have yet to provide the same backing for a candidate who has been promised major support. State Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), who is seeking to defeat Republican Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) in the 3rd Congressional District, was selected in January to receive financial, communications, and strategic support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) as part of its “Red to Blue” program.
With national Democrats uniting behind Perlmutter, national Republicans are seeking to do the same for not only Coors but also Tipton.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $2,223,575 to buy campaign commercials to support its candidates in the Denver media market, spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said in an interview.
Scarpinato said the ads would begin this Friday, but did not say he knew which contests the ads would be for.
Coors’ ascent and Pace’s lack of national support have changed the storyline of the 2012 congressional races in the Centennial state.
As recently as late July, the Rothenberg Political Report did not list Perlmutter as among the 71 lawmakers vulnerable to losing his or her re-election bid this fall and declared the Tipton-Pace contest to be a tossup. (DCCC officials had prepared for the possibility as early as April that Perlmutter’s re-election bid might be more difficult than expected, however). Now the organization said Perlmutter’s race is “no longer a sure thing for the Democrats” and favors Tipton over Pace.
Democrats, hoping to regain control of the House of Representatives, have launched attacks against Coors. The House Majority PAC announced on September 4 it had spent $500,000 for an ad that accuses the Republican challenger of seeking to ban abortion and some types of contraception.
Organized labor has also taken aim at the Golden businessman. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union reportedly have spent more than $500,000 for an attack ad that said Coors supports a plan that cuts taxes for the wealthy and raises them on the middle class.
Despite the recent turn of events in favor of Colorado House Republicans, they face challenges in their efforts to unseat Perlmutter and defend Tipton.
Coors’ previous support for an anti-abortion statewide ballot initiative two years ago has also come under fire. Stephen Carter, a regional press secretary for the DCCC, has used Coors’ past support for the proposal to sound what has become a familiar “War on Women” theme, characterizing the Golden businessman as “an extremist who would jeopardize women’s health.”
Tipton could face difficulties in winning a second term if two things occur, said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst at the Rothenberg Political Report, in an interview. Pace would need to “distinguish himself in some sort of way from national Democrats” whose positions on cultural and energy-related issues are unpopular in the sprawling district that includes the Western Slope, she noted. In addition, President Obama would need to do well to carry down-ballot Democratic candidates like Pace.
But more help for Perlmutter and Pace may be on the way. Carter, a spokesman for the DCCC, said the organization will begin spending the $2.9 million it has reserved for Denver-area television stations to support its House candidates at the end of this month.
Meanwhile, political observers and campaign operatives do not expect the race between incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) and State Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver) to change. They predict the contest for the 6th Congressional district, an area that encompasses southeastern Denver suburban town such as Aurora, will remain close.
While the fundamentals of the three contested House races in Colorado may have changed only slightly, Democratic plans of winning the 25 seats they need to retake control of the House of Representatives have been frustrated. That’s because defending incumbents like Perlmutter means national Democrats have fewer resources to help promising challengers, observers note.
The Rothenberg Political Report predicts Democrats will pick up four to nine seats this fall.