By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"I am a warrior for TABOR. I am very young and kind of reckless," Ali said, oblivious to the waitress who had crept up behind him and was now trying to get his attention. "Can I get your order?" she interrupted, as the party members looked on. "Chicken fingers, please," he said, turning back to the audience to finish his point. "You have a choice between shrimp, schnitzel and the salad bar," the waitress said. "What would make me look tough?" Ali asked, laughing. After a long pause, he said, "I'll take the shrimp."
But when the shrimp came, Ali barely touched it. Instead he watched as White, flanked by his wife and campaign manager, rose to speak. "Muhammad has indicated that he has differences with me," he began. "He has misunderstood me. His differences are not really differences." White hadn't yet finalized a plan on oil revenues, he explained. He never voted to send Western Slope water to Denver. And yes, he did support Referendum C, but only because he wanted more money to go to higher education. The audience nodded with each point. "I appreciate what Muhammad is saying, but my question is, why, if he wants to give himself to public service, is he running for SD-8 when all of the Republican leadership wants him to run for 56?"
He then mentioned a poll Ali had conducted which predicted "devastating" results for Ali's Senate campaign. "Can you support Muhammad? I think he's a good person. It is in pursuing HD-56 that you can be put to good use," White concluded.
Back in the Suburban, Ali slumped into the passenger's seat. "I got my ass handed to me there," he told Miller, who was driving.
"No, no, no," she said. "Al White boldface-lied on certain things. He is a good speaker and an expert liar. You called him on his voting record, and he turned around and asked everyone to tell you not to run."
"I hate those fucking kingmakers," Ali pouted. "I am not going to listen to those fuckers. I am not going to listen to guys that don't mean well for Colorado."
But Ali was already wondering whether the House district was a better choice. He considered floating a proposal to White: If White was willing to publicly pledge to uphold TABOR and make sure that oil revenue returned to the Western Slope, then Ali just might, he emphasized, switch races.
Miller held Ali's hand while she drove, using her other to maneuver the car back toward downtown Glenwood Springs. Over the past few weeks, a romance had developed between the two. Miller, 26 and a mother of three young boys, originally joined the team as a publicist. But one night, after a Young Republicans debate, Ali found himself kissing her against her car. At first they'd kept things quiet and casual. "If there is one elected office I have held, it is 'Mayor of Commitment-Phobia-Ville,'" he says. "I told her, 'I'm a bad guy. I'm this womanizing mean guy who wants to be a politician.'"
But then one day Bartleson caught them making out in between interviews for a campaign assistant, and Ali decided to go public with the relationship. Miller transitioned into a volunteer role to avoid a conflict of interest. And she stopped eating pork because Ali, who keeps a halal diet, said he could taste it on her breath when he kissed her. Although Ali says he was a little embarrassed at first about the planetary wallpaper in his bedroom, it hasn't kept Miller from repeatedly spending the night there.
Ali also began telling their story to warm up the crowd at each campaign stop. "This has been the best part of the campaign," he says. "You find love when you are not looking for it. I had given up on love. I said, 'I just want to have fun.' She walked into my life and definitely made an improvement."
That evening, however, Miller went home, and Ali returned to the Beaver Creek mansion about 9 p.m. He walked into the kitchen, a basement room set up like a restaurant, with pots and pans hanging from the ceiling and stainless-steel countertops where the family chef creates their meals. Seeme sat at a wooden table down the hall in a room decorated with paintings of fruit and photos of Ali and his two sisters in ski clothing. She wore a brown and red tunic dress, eating onion rings with grilled cheese and drinking water from a cut-glass goblet. "Good Morning Pakistan" was showing on a mounted television with a clip of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani president who would be assassinated just weeks later.
Before Ali could sit down, Seeme asked him for the full report on his day. Ali admitted that he had debated White, even though Seeme had warned him against it so early on in the race.
"Why won't you listen to me, Ali?" she asked in her thick Pakistani accent. She glanced at the television and back at her son.
"I didn't know what to say," he said. To make matters worse, nearly everyone at the luncheon seemed to support his opponent, Ali explained. One quiet older woman who attended all of his events implored Ali to switch races, saying he would burn bridges with the state Republican Party if he didn't.