Peter Coors, the great-grandson of beer baron Adolph Coors and a proponent of the Federal Marriage Amendment, has handily won the Republican primary for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat, triggering a face-off with the state's Democratic attorney general this fall.
With nearly all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Coors--on leave as chairman of Coors Brewing Co.--got 61% of the vote. His opponent in the general election will be Colorado attorney general Ken Salazar, who collected 73% of the vote in the Democratic primary.
Salazar, who toured the state with a cowboy hat and a populist message, said his victory proves he has statewide support. Coors, 57, a political novice, said the Senate has 57 lawyers and does not need another one. "I've said all along, the Senate needs more people with business experience," he said.
Coors's victory capped a bitter campaign in which conservatives loyal to his opponent in the primary funded ads trying to to link him to gay causes--an apparent reference to the fact that Coors Brewing Co. extended benefits to same-sex partners of its workers and promoted its beer in gay bars while Coors was an executive at the company.
Yet Coors said he supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. He has said that many of his policies as chairman made good business sense.
Democrats believe the race represents a golden opportunity to gain the seat currently held by retiring GOP senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell; Republicans control the U.S. Senate by a slim margin. National Democrats are hoping Salazar will attract Hispanics to the polls, possibly giving presidential candidate John Kerry a boost in November.