An Uphill Climb
WHEN COLORADO'S U.S. SENATOR BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL (R) announced that he would not seek another term in 2004, two wings of the Republican party rallied behind two different candidates to replace him. On paper, the two candidates had many similarities of great importance to the Christian Right. Both were prolife conservative Catholics who supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Yet Christian conservatives in Colorado were enthusiastic about one and fearful of the other. Republican Congressman Bob Schaeffer easily attracted local evangelical groups with his record in the U.S. House supporting such issues. In contrast, the only association conservative Christians had with Pete Coors was his family's beer company.
In many ways, the race between Schaeffer and Coors embodies the tension within the Republican party ever since the Christian Right originated. Sometimes these factions work together successfully, as in President Bush's 2004 reelection bid in Colorado. On other occasions, such as in the Colorado Senate race, bitter infighting occurs. Coors won the primary, and Christian conservatives showed little enthusiasm for his general election campaign, which he lost to the Democrat Ken Salazar. After the election, there was some speculation that this infighting might have cost the Republican Party not only the Senate seat but control of the state legislature as well. A careful look at the election results suggests that there is some truth to that claim, although other factors probably were involved. In any event, the 2004 election in Colorado is a warning to Republican and Christian Right activists alike.