WASHINGTON — More than once, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) has suggested that his Republican rival, Joseph Coors, Jr., opposes federal support for green energy programs. “I support…wind, solar, biomass. My opponent…called wind and solar not ready and he talked about wind mills making too much of a racket. So I support renewable energy,” the Democrat said at a debate for congressional candidates last week.
Perlmutter’s campaign website claims that Coors called a federal subsidy for wind production “anti-Republican” last March. It provided a link to a fuzzy-sounding audio clip on YouTube in which Coors tells a crowd of Republican supporters that a Danish company has threatened to lay off 184 workers in Colorado if the firm does not receive a federal tax break.
At the debate, Coors rebutted Perlmutter’s charge. “I’m an all-the-above energy person,” he said according to WestWord, the Denver alternative weekly newspaper. “I drive a [Chevy] Volt, an electric car, 98 miles a gallon.”
His statement was consistent with a TV ad his campaign released this summer in which the candidate is shown driving his 2012 Chevy Volt and declaring his support for alternative energy.
Coors’ campaign has also declared his support for more specific energy policies. His spokeswoman Michelle Yi said he supports extending the federal wind production tax credit which is due to expire this year.
Coors has not disavowed conservative positions on the need for increased oil and natural gas exploration. Yet he has endorsed centrist positions on green energy in general and the wind production tax credit specifically. His center-right stand on the energy and environment might not always endear him to conservative activists, but he hopes it will win sufficient support from independent voters to help him carry the Democrat-leaning district.
Coors’ position is consistent with his campaign, which has sought to portray the 70-year-old businessman as an individual rather than a standard-issue establishment Republican.
His best-known slogan has been a radio and TV ad in which he declares “I’m not a beer.” At the debate last week, he denied Perlmutter’s claim that his former ceramics tile company, CoorsTek, shipped jobs to Asia. “It just kind of irritates me when I’m accused of outsourcing,” he said. “He’s talking about global presence…. CoorsTek has a global presence. We did not outsource any American jobs. I don’t know where that comes from.”
Republican candidates have not fared well in the 7th Congressional District, which after being redistricted for the 2010 Census contains the northeastern Denver suburbs of Adams and Jefferson counties.
Former Representative Bob Beauprez was the last Republican to represent the district. After he retired from the seat to run for governor in 2006, former state senator Ed Perlmutter captured the seat and has held it for three terms on Capitol Hill.
Democrats’ advantage in party identification helps explain Republican difficulties in the district. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, Democrats held a 131-vote advantage over Republicans in 2002. Their advantage has grown to 14,046 votes this year. Overall, Democrats have 114,285 and Republicans 100,239 registered voters; an additional 108,823 voters are unaffiliated with either party.
Coors has sought to overcome Republicans’ disadvantages by campaigning against Perlmutter from the center.
For example, Coors has criticized the incumbent’s vote for cap-and-trade-legislation in July 2009, which the House approved by a narrow 7-vote margin but languished in the Senate. His campaign website emphasizes that the legislation would have increased fuel costs and resulted in job losses.
“Cap and trade is a job killer that would increase the cost of energy and transportation for working families,” Coors said on the site.
Coors has also hammered Perlmutter for casting votes voting both for and against building the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Texas.
Kyle L. Saunders, an associate professor of political science at Colorado State University, said the more Coors and Perlmutter tie their positions on energy and environment to the economy, the better off each will be. “(T)he electorate has indicated clearly that the most important issues in the 2012 election for them are the economy and jobs,” Saunders said.
“It would seem that the 7th CD is pretty typical of Colorado. So, as far as both Coors and Perlmutter can support renewable energy development, as well as more tradition sources of energy, and frame that support in the context of increasing employment and betterment of the economy, they will benefit from that message.”