updated 10/4/2004 3:25:55 PM ET 2004-10-04T19:25:55

Colorado’s tight Senate race between Democratic state Attorney General Ken Salazar and Republican beer executive Peter Coors is shaping up to be the most expensive political race in state history, preliminary contribution information shows.

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The two candidates have raised about $11.3 million, breaking the old record of $10.5 million set by Republican Wayne Allard and Democrat Tom Strickland in their 2002 Senate race. Allard won re-election after raising $5.4 million.

Salazar has already topped that amount, raising about $6 million since he joined the race in March, while Coors has raised $5.3 million since entering in April, their campaigns said Sunday.

Coors’ total includes $400,000 he lent himself before the Aug. 10 primary, Coors’ spokeswoman Cinamon Watson said.

The candidates must file their October quarterly report on contributions and expenses to the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 15.

The race to replace GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who announced this spring he would not run because of health reasons, is one of seven in the country for open Senate seats. Democrats see the race as a golden opportunity to reduce Republicans’ 51-48 margin in the Senate.

Polls show candidates in a dead heat
The most recent poll, conducted Sept. 14-18, showed the candidates in a virtual dead heat. Of 600 registered voters questioned by Ciruli Associates of Denver for the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper, 46 percent favored Salazar and 45 percent favored Coors, with 9 percent undecided. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.

Nearly 14,000 people have contributed to Salazar’s campaign, said campaign spokesman Cody Wertz. More than half were from Coloradans who gave a total of more than $2.7 million, he said.

“We’re extremely pleased with the amount of individuals who have donated to Ken’s campaign,” Wertz said. “This proves his strong support across Colorado.”

Coors is reporting that between July 22 and Sept. 30, he raised about $2.5 million from nearly 4,500 people, Watson said. About 6,400 people have given to his campaign. Watson did not have information Sunday on how many of Coors’ contributors were from Colorado.

“It speaks to the very positive momentum to this campaign,” she said. “I’m certain that our supporters have been working very hard and will continue to do so until election day, until the polls close in fact.”

Coors’ campaign committee had about $660,000 on hand at the end of September, Watson said. The Salazar campaign had $650,000 on hand Sunday, Wertz said.

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