Is This Muslim Republican Mr. Right or the Big Cheese?

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And instead of highlighting his differences with a fellow Republican, Ali, who would likely run unopposed in a primary, began to think about a Democratic challenger. (Summit County School Board president Christine Scanlan was later appointed to replace Dan Gibbs, and she planned to run again in November.)

Republican Party chairman Wadhams voiced his support as well. He had nudged Ali to leave the Senate race for the House early on, saying, "I try to avoid costly Republican primaries wherever I can." Talking about Ali, he said, "I think he will run a very aggressive and effective campaign, and I look forward to watching that develop."

Ali also garnered his first endorsement. Fabulous and Gay — a shaving cream company owned by a gay family friend — pumped the candidate and his fashion sense on its blog, but mistakenly wrote that he is running for Congress.

In spite of his excitement, Ali knew that by switching districts he wasn't living up to the "Hasan way," the notion that "when you start something, you finish strong. You don't make a promise and then not keep it." Neither Seeme nor Malik appeared for Ali's announcements at Breckenridge, Avon and Leadville coffee shops in early December. "Mom and Dad, who are my biggest advisors, still want to hold Al White accountable," explains Ali. "We are going to debate the best way of going about that. We may not do anything. We are not going to endorse him, not until he comes clean."

Seeme said in an e-mail that she and Malik were in Washington, D.C., on the day of her son's announcement. "We are happy that ALI is running for the house seat, as usual, whatever he decides we go along with him," she wrote. "Also, we have not attended any of the campaign trips or events by choice, because the focus should be on ALI, not his parents or sisters. Everyone in this family is very accomplished, and we do not want to overshadow ALI in any way at any event."

White, for his part, was relieved. "I felt Muhammad was a threat, because primaries tend to be damaging to whoever the prevailing candidate is," he says. "You know, he cast his spurs against me. If that happens long enough and loud enough, people start to question me. "I think he just analyzed or assessed the two different districts and came to the realization that he had a better chance in 56," he continues. "The Senate district is a significantly different district than 56, from a political standpoint. Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield Counties are more conservative in their outlook, and I don't think they would have looked kindly on a 27-year-old newly-moved-from-Hollywood-registered-in-Eagle-County-in-April guy. I don't think that would have played well." (Hasan actually registered in Eagle County in October 2006.)

In early December, Miller sat on a couch outside of Ali's bedroom while the candidate picked out clothes for the afternoon. The town hall meetings were scheduled to begin in just two hours, and the couple still had to drive to Breckenridge and set up the microphones and chairs for the Front Range representatives.

Miller waited, furiously buffing her nails. Things had been tense between the pair ever since Ali's dachshund, Deelya, attacked Miller's guinea pig, Pepsi. But today the two were simply excited. Ali came out of the bedroom wearing a silvery shirt unbuttoned to show his chest hair and a black belt with a winged skull on the buckle.

"I'm the Western Slope warrior, and I'm tough," he said. Plus, the belt matched his shoes, black cowboy boots with red uppers — the color of Miller's hair, he cooed.  

When the pair arrived in Breckenridge, Ali's new campaign manager, Callie Carey — Bartleson left the team when his wife became ill — was waiting for them in the coffee shop. She helped Ali secure his body mike and then ordered him a hot chocolate, which he dribbled a bit onto his shirt. Carey dragged him into the bathroom to clean up.

At noon, Ali and Carey greeted five Front Range legislators as they arrived, including Amy Stephens of Monument. "We're here to get this guy elected!" she said to a small audience inside. "Let's do it!" May came later with Colorado Springs representative Stella Garza Hicks.

"I am touched that the legislators are here," Ali said when everyone was settled. "You see, these Front Range legislators are pushing us around. You are trying to take our water," he joked, pointing at one. "You are trying to take our severance tax," pointing at another. "And you, you started the pine-beetle epidemic."

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Naomi Zeveloff