The great-grandson of beer baron Adolph Coors (search) 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. In Georgia, a Democrat became the first black candidate ever nominated to the U.S. Senate from that state.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Peter Coors (search), on leave as chairman of Coors Brewing Co., had 200,051 votes, or 61 percent, and former Rep. Bob Schaffer had 130,103 votes, or 39 percent.
On the Democratic side, Attorney General Ken Salazar (search) had 169,457 votes, or 73 percent, and educator Mike Miles had 61,914 votes, or 27 percent. Salazar, who toured the state with a cowboy hat and a populist message, said his victory proves he has statewide support.
"People recognize that I care about every single county, every single community, no matter how large or small. I look forward to a dynamic campaign with Pete Coors," Salazar said.
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.
Democrats believe the race represents a golden opportunity to gain the seat currently held by retiring GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (search); Republicans control the 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.
Salazar's older brother, John, had no opposition for the party's nomination in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, though his Republican opponent remained unclear early Wednesday. Former state natural resources chief Greg Walcher and state Rep. Matt Smith were in a race too close to call with certain ballots still outstanding.
With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Walcher had 15,381 votes, or 32 percent. State Rep. Matt Smith had 15,106 votes, or 31 percent. Walcher claimed victory, but Smith said it was too close to offer a concession.
In Georgia, first-term Rep. Denise Majette crushed a millionaire businessman to win a Democratic runoff for the seat being vacated by retiring Georgia Sen. Zell Miller. She became the first black candidate ever nominated to the U.S. Senate in Georgia.
Majette will be a heavy underdog against GOP Rep. Johnny Isakson in a state that has tilted Republican in recent years. Majette would make more history if she prevails in the fall: There have only been two black senators since Reconstruction.
Majette, 49, easily defeated the well-heeled Cliff Oxford, a 40-year-old technology company founder who was recruited to run by former President Carter. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Majette had 59 percent, or 160,913 votes, compared with Oxford's 41 percent, or 109,589 votes.
"I'm just very honored that the people of Georgia are giving me the opportunity to run this next phase of the race. We've worked very hard. That hard work is paying off," Majette said.
Coors' victory capped a bitter campaign in which conservatives loyal to Schaffer funded ads ridiculing Coors' support of a lower drinking age. They also tried to link him to homosexual 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.
Coors said he supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and he contends lowering the drinking age would teach responsibility at a younger age. He also has said many of his policies as chairman made good business sense.
Other races also were decided in Georgia, Colorado and Connecticut.
In a runoff for the seat held by retiring Georgia Rep. Mac Collins, state Rep. Lynn Westmoreland defeated Dylan Glenn, a young, telegenic candidate who was bidding to become the first black Republican congressman since Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired in 2002.
In Connecticut, former Norwich city councilman Jim Sullivan won the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Rob Simmons, who has been targeted by national Democrats for defeat in November.
Also in Colorado, a proposal from a 15-year-old girl to bar circus animal acts within Denver city limits was soundly defeated, 72 percent to 28 percent.