By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
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By Melanie Asmar
Seeme first became politically active in Pueblo, reviving the deflated local Republican Party by urging registered voters to head to the polls. She also joined the board of the symphony, and says she received death threats when she ousted a conductor who was unpopular with the musicians. The Hasans also gave locally: the business school at Colorado State University at Pueblo bears their name, as does a lobby in the town's Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center. In addition, Seeme started the Colorado Music Fest, a music-education program for underprivileged youth.
As a child, Ali had trouble in school, bouncing from one private elementary to another before landing in Denver at Graland Country Day School for sixth grade. From there, he went to a boarding school outside of Boston.
"People liked them or didn't like them," recalls Sandy Stein, a family friend who writes a society column for the Pueblo Chieftain. "I think there was a lot of jealousy. And I think the dad can be pretty aloof. Seeme is really likable and really personable. In the end, some of the people here are aggravated by them."
In mid-November, Ali and his team made plans to meet the district's influential Republicans. On a crisp morning, the group — which had grown to four with the addition of a redheaded publicist named Alison Miller and a new assistant named Tim Nottingham to replace Berckefeldt — gathered in Ali's home, waiting for the candidate to get ready.
Miller wandered around the "campaign headquarters," a small home office with a wooden desk stacked with local newspapers. After a near-sleepless night, Ali was running late again, and not even a prompting text message from Bartleson could urge the candidate to move faster. "Maybe he's blow-drying his hair," joked Miller. Ali eventually emerged from his bedroom — an apartment-sized annex with black, outer-space-themed wallpaper that he'd picked out years ago when his parents remodeled the mansion.
Though Ali decided early on that he wouldn't hold a job during the campaign, the traveling and public speaking had still taken a toll on him. Ali was a night owl, editing films or firing off e-mails at 4 a.m. It was a habit he'd picked up from his father, who was known to review his patients' files deep into the night.
Around noon, Ali and his entourage pulled up to the Buffalo Valley Inn, a log cabin-style restaurant on the outskirts of Glenwood Springs. Shirley Woodrow, an active member of the Republican group, was waiting in the lobby. "Can I give you a hug?" Ali asked, squeezing her into a sideways embrace and a cheek kiss, his signature greeting.
White — who was the event's guest of honor — was scheduled to speak in just a few minutes, and Ali was antsy. Though the candidates had met only a handful of times, the tension between them was growing. In the last few days, White and several local Republican leaders had warned Ali to back off of Senate District 8 and the bruising primary that was sure to come. They urged him to run instead in House District 56, covering Eagle, Summit and Lake counties, with a small population of 82,000. That seat had been recently vacated by Dan Gibbs, a Democrat chosen to take Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald's position as she focused on a run for Congress.
"My husband and I wrote [Ali] an e-mail and said, 'You need to strongly consider this,'" says Heather Lemon, a Vail broker and prominent Eagle County Republican. She told him he'd have a lot of support. "I don't know what the farmers in Senate District 8 think of him. If they know him, it's one thing. If they don't, they'll say, 'Who's this?' In House District 56, people are more open-minded and curious," she says.
Ali had thought about the advice, but he just couldn't let go of his interest in the more prestigious Senate seat. He sat down at the main table, placed his monogrammed leather notebook in front of him, and watched as older men and women began to trickle into the restaurant's conference room and seat themselves on red upholstered chairs. After a few moments, White stepped into the room, and Ali jumped up.
"I didn't mean to give you such harsh commentary in the Vail Daily," he laughed awkwardly, referring to a recent article in which he called White the "Western Slope exploiter" and himself the "Western Slope warrior." "I know you are a good guy."
White sat down at the head of the table and nodded icily, his eyes focused on the center of the room.
After a brief introduction, Ali — to his surprise — was invited to speak. "The last thing I want to do is represent people if they don't want me to," he began, standing. "The reason I would entertain a run for District 8 is that there are differences between me and Al White." Ali ran through them quickly: White wants to give oil revenue to the Front Range, not the Western Slope; White supported a Denver effort to take water from the Western Slope; and White worked to destroy the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, a measure that limits government spending, by backing Referendum C.