- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

ARVADA, Colo. — Rep. Bob Beauprez, Colorado Republican, has two goals for November: Win his election and lose his nickname.

Two years ago, his Republican colleagues dubbed him “Landslide Bob” after Mr. Beauprez captured the newly drawn 7th congressional district seat by a scant 121 votes, the narrowest margin in the nation.

Big election victories don’t come easily in this suburban Denver district, one of the most competitive in the nation. The district, which includes parts of Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties, now has a voter-registration count of 33 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat and 33 percent unaffiliated voters.

That split gives the Democratic candidate, Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas, a strong foothold on which to build his campaign. Most political analysts have pegged this contest as a tossup, while Democrats see it as one of their best bets for picking up a House seat.

“This race is going to be as close as last time, and maybe even closer,” predicted Arvada mayor pro-tem Mark Williams. “We just hope we don’t have to wait for weeks for the result this time.”

At yesterday’s debate before the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, the candidates drew sharp distinctions on their positions on issues like the war on terror, tax relief and trade policy.

Mr. Thomas said he would support maintaining the Bush administration’s tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans, while Mr. Beauprez wants to keep all the cuts. Mr. Beauprez gave wholehearted support to the war in Iraq, while Mr. Thomas said the war had undercut the nation’s reputation in the world community.

“We can’t do it ourselves — we need to engage the world community,” said Mr. Thomas yesterday. “We need to work in concert with the Germans, the French, the Russians, the Spaniards and the Indonesians.”

Mr. Beauprez argued that the Bush administration was pursuing the correct policy. “I agree with [retired general] Tommy Franks — I’d rather fight them over there than over here,” said Mr. Beauprez.

Republicans give Mr. Beauprez the advantage in November. His close 2002 race drew the attention of national Republicans, who helped steer him to choice assignments on the Small Business, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.

“He’s got two things in his favor: One, he’s the incumbent. Two, he has an exemplary record as a congressman,” said Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ted Halaby. “He’s maintained his contacts with the district, and he’s never stopped running. He’s worked very hard.”

Democrats argue that Mr. Beauprez is too conservative for the district. “In Washington, he votes the hard-core conservative line, and in Colorado, he masquerades as a moderate,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Chris Gates.

“That’s not keeping in touch with that district — it’s a 50/50 district,” said Mr. Gates.

As a third-term district attorney, Mr. Thomas is a familiar face in Jefferson County politics. He ran in 2002 for the Democratic nomination, but lost the primary to former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Feeley, who went on to lose narrowly to Mr. Beauprez.

He may be best known for his public role in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, during which he became a familiar figure on local and national news as he helped sort through the tragedy.

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