Coors Steps Up to Colo. Senate Seat Challenge

Peter Coors (search), a member of the beer industry's staunchly conservative Coors family, has acted at times as if he had been switched at birth.

He once sat down with a union to iron out problems at the Coors brewery and later helped secure benefits for gay employees.

Now the Republican is bucking family tradition again, by running for the Senate from Colorado.

While his father and grandfather preferred to pursue their political causes behind closed doors, Coors stepped up when GOP leaders came calling, setting the stage for what is expected to be one of the most expensive and closely watched Senate races in the country.

"I have business experience. I'm kind of a peacemaker. I believe we should solve problems by getting people together and finding out what each side wants," said the 57-year-old political novice.

He faces former Rep. Bob Schaffer (search) in what is shaping up as a tough GOP primary, with the winner expected to face a formidable Democrat this fall in Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar (search). All are trying to succeed GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (search), who cited health concerns in announcing his retirement.

The race could help determine the control of the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-48 majority with one Democratic-leaning independent.

Peter Coors, a tall, silver-haired figure with a charismatic presence on the campaign trail, took over as president of the Golden-based company in 1987 and in 2002 was named chief executive. He now runs the nation's third-largest brewer, with 8,500 employees and $4 billion in sales last year.

Over the years, the Coors family has supported a variety of right wing organizations, including the Heritage Foundation and the John Birch Society. Coors' mother, Holly, helped persuade Ronald Reagan to run for president. The brewer built a reputation for union-busting decades ago, replacing striking workers during a dispute in the 1970s.

Peter Coors, though, is considered moderate in some quarters.

Relatives were stunned when Coors in 1984 declared it was time to negotiate with union officials to end a nearly decade-long labor dispute.