Politics & Policy

Banking On The Brewer

In Colorado, Republican hopes rest on Pete Coors.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the October 11, 2004, issue of National Review.

On April 4, Pete Coors was on his way to church with his wife, Marilyn, when conversation turned to Colorado’s Senate race. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the GOP incumbent, had issued the surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection, and Republicans were scrambling to come up with a new candidate. All of the likely aspirants–the governor, lieutenant governor, and five GOP members of Congress–had declined to get in. The Democrats, meanwhile, had no such trouble: They quickly rallied behind attorney general Ken Salazar, who was widely seen as a formidable contender no matter which Republican stepped forward.

“Hickenlooper told me I should run,” said Coors to his wife, referring to Denver’s Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper. “He said Colorado could use another brewer in public office.”

Hickenlooper owns a microbrewery, and the macrobrewer Coors suspected that his friend was just joking. But he took the idea seriously, and so did Marilyn. For years, Coors had expressed a desire to enter politics at some point. “If not now, when?” she asked him. Over the next two days, Coors talked to his children and state GOP leaders. On Wednesday, April 7, Gov. Bill Owens informed the press that his party finally had a candidate. “I think Pete Coors would make an outstanding senator,” he said.

When Owens spoke these words, many Republicans in Colorado and Washington breathed a deep sigh of relief. If Coors hadn’t decided to enter the race, the GOP probably would have nominated former congressman Bob Schaffer–a solid conservative, but also a man Owens and others thought Salazar would easily beat in November. “Bob’s the kind of guy you appoint to fill a vacancy,” says one top Colorado Republican. “He’s not someone you nominate for a general election.” On August 10, Coors overwhelmed Schaffer in the primary, 61 percent to 39 percent.

The 58-year-old Coors brings not only a strong brand name to the table, but also a familiar image: For more than a decade, Americans have watched him wander around the Rockies and talk about beer during timeouts in televised football games. The real Pete Coors is much like the plainspoken guy he plays in his company’s commercials, with ruddy good looks and hair that’s as silver as a can of Coors Light. He is the great-grandson of Adolph Coors, the man who founded the Golden, Colo.-based company that is now America’s third-largest brewer.

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John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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