Colorado Votes: Perlmutter Vs Coors in the 7th CD

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[Photo: MVerlee/CPR]

Colorado’s 7th Congressional District was originally designed to be competitive, but in the past three elections, Democrat Ed Perlmutter has fought off all competitors. This November, Republican Joe Coors hopes to change that, challenging Perlmutter in a redrawn district that’s redder than before.

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[The following is a transcript of Megan Verlee's report]

Reporter Megan Verlee: In certain ways, the Congressional race going on in Denver’s northern and western suburbs looks like a microcosm of the presidential election; voters must choose between a Democratic incumbent, running on his record, and a Republican challenger touting a strong business background. And like Mitt Romney, Joe Coors is making the private sector a big part of his platform, often citing his own experience running a high-tech ceramics company and touring businesses in the district, like the for-profit Pima Medical Institute.

Joe Coors: "As an employer, to see happy faces, just the sign of a good environment, good management.”

Woman: “Students are happy, the staff and the faculty are happy.”

Coors: “They’re going to be productive.”

Reporter: But Coors says not all businesses in the district are happy.

Coors: "What I see is fear, uncertainty and doubt. Taxes, regulations, federal mandates, those kind of things are just stifling their growth."

Reporter: Coors believes the best way Congress can fix that malaise is by keep things as they are -- holding off on new business regulations and extending ALL of the Bush-era tax cuts. While opponents have attacked Coors for a past donation to the anti-abortion Personhood campaign... he says fiscal, not social, issues are his focus. And he acknowledges there’s no easy fix.

Coors: "Everybody needs to understand that balancing the budget is mathematically not possible without gutting everything. "

Reporter: Instead, Coors says, fiscal stability is a long process, one that starts with freezing federal spending. And he’s bucked a trend in his own party by refusing to sign a pledge not to ever raise taxes. Coors is also on the attack, going after incumbent Ed Perlmutter for supporting both the health care overhaul and the federal stimulus package.

Coors: "Nobody’s benefited from the stimulus package. Nobody that I know of in this country."

Ed Perlmutter: "That is just so wrong."

Reporter: Perlmutter strongly defends the stimulus. The package included funds for major road improvements in the 7th CD, as well as money that counties used to prevent some teacher layoffs. He’s been taking his case for relection directly to households in the district.

Perlmutter: "Hi, my name’s Ed Perlmutter, I’m the Congressman for this area. And I’m just passing out my literature, and so this will basically tell you I’m the most bipartisan of the entire Colorado delegation, Democrat and Republicans. I’m a Democrat, but..."

Reporter: According to a Washington Post analysis, Perlmutter has diverged from his party more than any other Colorado member of Congress, about 15% of the time. Perlmutter does stand with other Democrats in several key areas, including the idea that reforming the tax code should begin at the top.

Perlmutter: "You know, end the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, you start there."

Reporter: Policy arguments may get drowned out by the dollars in this race though. By midsummer, Coors had $1.2 million in his war-chest, about half of which came from his personal fortune. Perlmutter’s campaign had raised less at that point, but he’s attracted more than a million dollars from outside groups, including unions and Democratic PACs. All the ads that money’s buying don’t seem to have made much of an impression, at least not among Westminster parents gathered for a youth soccer league on a recent Saturday. It was hard to find to find anyone on the sidelines with an opinion about the race.

Reporter: “What do you think of the candidates so far?”

Man: “I guess, no, I’m not following it well enough to give you that.”

Woman: “I have no updates on anything, I’ve been out of the loop.”

Woman: “Uh, I don’t even know who’s running in district 7.”

Reporter: All those people did have opinions about the presidential candidates though, who are also fighting hard to win these suburbs. And so for Perlmutter and Coors, their chances may come down to how well each national campaign manages to get out its supporters.