BOULDER, Colo. — Joe Coors may not be a beer, but the 70-year-old congressional candidate is a "Young Gun."
Coors received the coveted status from the National Republican Congressional Committee last week. Coors is challenging Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who is completing his third term in Colorado's competitive 7th Congressional District.
The "Young Gun" designation is given to candidates considered a good bet to pick up a House seat in competitive races and can mean extra help from the national GOP, not to mention more attention from Republican donors.
Not that Coors needs that much donor attention. One of the wealthy heirs of the Colorado beer brewing family, Joe Coors led CoorsTek, a high-tech ceramics manufacturing company, for many years. He kicked in more than $218,000 to his campaign through the end of March, and Coors family members have donated more than $40,000 of his $241,000 in itemized contributions.
How's he spending his money? So far, in radio and TV ads dispelling any myth that he's a beer. Of course, the "I'm not a beer" line has some observers recalling another ad from 2010 - Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's "I'm not a witch" spot, which did the candidate no favors.
Perlmutter had more than $810,000 in the bank at the end of March, according to the Federal Election Commission, with unions and other PACs kicking in plenty to his campaign.
Does Coors have a chance against the incumbent?
"There's the issue that he has a substantial amount of money, that is always somewhat of a threat," said Seth Masket, an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver. "My impression though is that if Perlmutter was ever going to be in real trouble it would have been in 2010... he survived that pretty handily."
Coors isn't the first in his family to run for public office in Colorado. Younger brother Pete Coors — who is chairman of Molson Coors Brewing Co. — ran for the U.S. Senate on the GOP ticket against Ken Salazar in 2004. Pete Coors lost that election to Salazar, who is now interior secretary. He also spent more than $1.2 million on his campaign.
Of course the opening "I'm not a beer" ad salvo is just a fraction of what Colorado TV viewers have faced so far — or will face as the election year heats up in this swing state.
Sandra Fish teaches journalism at the University of Colorado and has reported on politics in Iowa, Florida and Colorado. Follow her on Twitter at @fishnette