On many levels, Bob Schaffer and Pete Coors, the two Republican candidates running for U.S. Senate, are a lesson in contrasts.
Schaffer, who at 41 years old has held office in the halls of Congress, began his political career right out of college working as a legislative researcher in the Ohio statehouse.
Coors, 56, graduated from college and quickly became a director of the brewing empire that has been in his family for five generations. Coors worked his way up the company's ladder, and in 2000 he was named chairman of Adolph Coors Co. and Coors Brewing Co.
Schaffer, who lives in Fort Collins with his wife and five children, moved to Colorado in 1985. Two years later, at 25, Schaffer became a state senator representing District 14. He remained in that post until 1996, when he was elected to the first of three terms as a U.S. congressman representing the state's 4th Congressional District. He opted not to seek re-election in 2002 to honor a self-imposed term limit.
The lives of the two men crossed paths earlier this year when Coors, in a surprise announcement, said he would run for U.S. Senate. Schaffer, who already had entered the race to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, lost the endorsement of Gov. Bill Owens in the wake of Coors' announcement, but the brewery chief's decision seemed to spark life into Schaffer's campaign.
"The most important endorsements are still with my campaign," Schaffer said in a phone interview. "I'm really thrilled that the core and bulk of the Republican Party is supporting my campaign."
With their candidacies solidified, Coors and Schaffer have spent the past several months working to highlight their differences, which at times has appeared to be a difficult task.
Recently the race turned nasty, with either supporters or the campaigns themselves using advertisements to question the politics of the other.
One of Schaffer's biggest supporters is former Sen. Bill Armstrong, who as director of Conservative Colorado Voters, aired radio and TV advertisements linking Coors to homosexual causes and accusing him of supporting tax increases and lowering the drinking age.
Schaffer has said he doesn't support the ads but apparently has not asked Armstrong to stop airing them.
The Coors campaign responded with ads describing Schaffer as a career politician who padded his resume to exaggerate his experience. Coors also has aired ads criticizing Schaffer for traveling at taxpayer expense.
The attacks between the candidates prompted state Republican Party Chairman Ted Halaby to request an end to the negative campaigning.
Whether the attacks subside or increase as the Aug. 10 primaries near, Coors and Schaffer have been able to differentiate themselves on a variety of issues.
Both candidates support popular Republican stances such as a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, opposing abortion rights and making permanent President Bush's tax cuts.
On education, Schaffer doesn't support the No Child Left Behind education legislation. He supported the original proposal, but voted against it as a congressman when flexibility and choice were removed and mandates were added, Schaffer said.
"It started out as a great proposal predicated on accountability, flexibility for states and choice for parents," Schaffer said.
Coors supports NCLB but says it's inadequately funded.
"I think it's important we test schools and determine where we're successful and not successful," Coors said last week. He thinks education is primarily a local issue and supports school voucher programs and charter schools.
"I think parents ought to have the option of sending their kids to the school where they'll get the best education," Coors said.
Schaffer supports state voucher programs, but not federal voucher programs.
Both men oppose the death penalty and support the war in Iraq.
Coors is in favor of renewing the Patriot Act as it's currently written. He said Americans who aren't doing anything illegal shouldn't worry about the loss of some privacy.
"I don't like my privacy invaded anymore than anyone else does," Coors said.
Schaffer has said he doesn't approve of a Patriot Act provision allowing government access to library records.
Both candidates think health care is one of the biggest issues facing America.
Tort reform is needed to limit the number of lawsuits brought against medical professionals, Coors said. He proposes the creation of specialized medical courts to deal specifically with malpractice and other health care-related issues. Coors is an advocate of association health care plans that allow small businesses, organizations and individuals to band together for more affordable health care plans.
Schaffer also thinks lawsuits must be discouraged to prevent rising insurance costs. Schaffer advocates a free market solution to the health care dilemma.
On Aug. 10, Colorado's Republican voters will choose Schaffer or Coors to battle Democrat Ken Salazar or Mike Miles for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Schaffer says his experience will enable him to be an effective senator from Day 1.
Coors, on the other hand, says the experience he's gained after 30 years in the family business is more than enough to represent Colorado well in Congress.
"If I didn't think my business experience and my community involvement wasn't valuable experience that could help in the U.S. Senate, I'd be supporting Bob Schaffer," Coors said.
Now it's up to the voters to decide whose experience and politics matter most.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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