- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

DENVER — Colorado Republican Pete Coors and Democrat Ken Salazar kicked off their Senate campaigns yesterday by reaching out to their primary rivals in an effort to heal any intraparty wounds before November.

Mr. Coors, who handily defeated former Rep. Bob Schaffer Tuesday after a heated primary battle, toured the state yesterday with a veritable who’s who of the state’s top Republican leaders, including Mr. Schaffer, in what the party billed as its “unity tour.”

“We’ve all spent the last couple of months pointing our rhetorical guns at each other,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, who backed Mr. Schaffer in the primary but now supports Mr. Coors.

“Now we’ve got to turn those guns around and point them at the Democrat,” Mr. Tancredo told the crowd of about 200 Republicans and reporters at the state Capitol.

Meanwhile, Mr. Salazar welcomed supporters of his Democratic rival, Mike Miles, at a low-key press conference in the parking lot of his downtown campaign headquarters.

“I do believe supporters of Mike Miles will become supporters of our team,” said Mr. Salazar, who said Mr. Miles had agreed to support him in an early-morning telephone call.

Mr. Salazar, the state’s attorney general, crushed Mr. Miles by a margin of 73 percent to 27 percent in Tuesday’s balloting. A public school administrator, Mr. Miles had run on an anti-war platform and had attracted the support of the party’s left wing.

The Republican race was closer: Mr. Coors, scion of the Coors Brewing Co., defeated Mr. Schaffer by 60 percent to 40 percent. The contest, which polls had depicted as too close to call, featured a series of attacks by Schaffer backers portraying Mr. Coors as a less-than-reliable conservative on issues such as the legal drinking age.

As of yesterday, however, all was forgotten as Republican leaders on both sides of the Coors-Schaffer scuffle urged their constituents to throw their support behind Mr. Coors.

“The conservatives are all excited about [Mr. Coors],” said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican, who had backed Mr. Schaffer. “We’re all going to work together.”

Underscoring the national importance of the race was Sen. George Allen of Virginia, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, who appeared at the Denver rally to stump for Mr. Coors and present him with a $35,000 check.

“All freedom-loving people are going to be watching to see what you do in Colorado,” Mr. Allen said.

Colorado became one of a few tossup states after Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell unexpectedly announced his retirement in March. The race could determine the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans now hold a narrow 51-48 majority, with one independent voting with the Democrats.

Polls taken during the primary showed Mr. Salazar leading both Mr. Coors and Mr. Schaffer in head-to-head contests.

Mr. Schaffer joked about his rapid conversion to the Coors camp. “Colorado Republicans agreed with him last night; I agree with him today,” Mr. Schaffer said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Coors was gracious in victory. “My biggest disappointment is that Bob Schaffer is not going to be in Washington to help me get the job done,” he said.

Mr. Salazar said he sees himself as the come-from-behind candidate, pointing to the Republican Party’s large voter-registration edge in Colorado and the Coors family’s wealth.

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