Denver, Colorado -
Pete Coors handily won the Republican primary for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat in a campaign that was marked by accusations the Coors Brewing Co. executive was soft on gays.
Although both Coors and his opponent, former Rep. Bob Schaffer said they would support amending the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, Schaffer ran a campaign painting Coors as a liberal out of step with "GOP values".
Coors, on leave as chairman of the brewery that bears his family name, is credited with working to make the company more inclusive.
In 1978 after San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk launched a national boycott of Coors products after the company supported efforts in San Francisco to deny gays civil rights, Pete Coors went on an aggressive campaign to bring gays into the company.
Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, was hired to run the diversity program.
Pete Coors backed benefits for gay workers and went so far as to promote the company personally in gay bars. In 1995 the company became the first major brewery in America to offer same-sex health benefits.
Television ads at the height of the primary race accused Peter Coors of "promoting homosexual causes".
The Coors campaign said the commercials amount to an illegal "soft money" contribution because the group sponsoring the ads has ties to the Schaffer campaign. Schaffer's campaign denied the charge but he did nothing to distance himself from the negative ads.
But, despite Pete Coors moves towards inclusion at the brewing company his support of a constitutional amendment angered gay rights advocates nationwide, prompting the Coors Brewing to launch its own ad campaign distancing itself from candidate Coors in an effort to head off a potential boycott.
The million dollar ad campaign in gay newspapers across the country.
"We want to make our position perfectly clear," Coors CEO Leo Kiely said in the ad. "We do not support discrimination against the GLBT community - via legislation or otherwise."
Then, in bold type the ad proclaimed "We do not support amending the Constitution."
Coors primary victory will pit him against Democrat Ken Salazar. Salazar, Colorado's Attorney General beat educator Mike Miles. 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.
Democrats believe the race represents a golden opportunity to gain the seat currently held by retiring GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Salazar is expected to attract Hispanics to the polls, possibly giving presidential candidate John Kerry a boost in November.