DENVER – The candidates for Colorado's tightly contested open Senate seat — beer heir Peter Coors (search) and state Attorney General Ken Salazar (search) — clashed Sunday over whether Usama bin Laden deserves the death penalty and the legal age for drinking.
Salazar, a Democrat, said in a debate on NBC's "Meet the Press" that bin Laden deserves to be executed if he is captured for orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, while Coors said executing bin Laden would make him a martyr to other Islamic terrorists.
"I think his attitude is he wants to go to Allah," said Coors, a Republican. "If he wants to go to Allah, by killing him, we would be granting his wish and perhaps even suggesting that he is a martyr."
"I think that the death penalty is an appropriate sanction for cop killers and for people who terrorize Americans and who kill innocent civilian life," he said.
The race between Salazar and Coors has become one of the most-watched in the country because it could decide which party controls the Senate. Republicans hold a 51-48 edge, but Democrats are trying to pick up the Colorado seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
The most recent poll, conducted Oct. 7, showed Coors and Salazar in a dead heat.
The two men also differed over whether the legal drinking age should be lowered, with Coors arguing that 18-year-olds should be able to drink legally if they can vote and go to war.
His remark angered health professionals in a state where two underage college students were found dead in fraternity houses last month after nights of heavy drinking.
Salazar said he opposes lowering the drinking age, saying thousands of young people die every year in alcohol-related accidents.
Coors was also criticized for being inconsistent for opposing gay marriages and adoption for gay couples while his beer company offers health benefits to gay couples.
"Look, I am very proud of our company. It is about recognizing that everyone in this country should be valued for what they are, and I believe that's the way we recognize it at our company," Coors said.
Salazar said gay couples should be able to adopt children if it's in the best interest of the child, but he opposes legal recognition of gay marriages.