First Ali Hasan wrote a biweekly column for the Vail Daily newspaper. Then he resigned that gig a year ago to seek state office (first Senate District 8, then House District 56 after Republicans rebuked him for initially planning to challenge popular GOP state Rep. Al White for SD 8).
Then Hasan’s ex-girlfriend, publicist and campaign volunteer, a former Vail Daily reporter named Alison Miller, sought a restraining order against Hasan for harassing her, a case she later dropped.
So Hasan hired another Vail Daily columnist, Kaye Ferry, the former head of the Vail Chamber and Business Association who left that job last spring after controversy erupted after she described, in an interview with the Colorado Independent, Front Range skiers as “riff-raff.”
Then Ferry was let go by then Vail Daily editor Alex Miller for, in part, accusing the Vail town manager and the CEO of Vail Resorts of not caring enough about Vail because they both spend, as she termed it, too much time in Boulder (that Front Range thing again).
Even though Hasan, the 28-year-old son of a Beaver Creek HMO mogul, is running an essentially anti-Denver, pro-West Slope campaign, his big promise is a monorail to better connect mountain communities to the Front Range.
Regardless, Hasan, who was quoted in a January Westword article saying, “I’m this womanizing mean guy who wants to be a politician,” decided to remove the temptation by announcing in August he would remain celibate through the Nov. 4 election.
The following month he grabbed more headlines with his eye-popping campaign report that showed he had spent nearly $200,000 of almost entirely his own money on the race – a record amount for a Colorado state House run. Of that, more than $70,000 was spent on advertising in the Vail Daily and its sister paper, the Summit Daily.
And then earlier this month the former Vail Daily columnist, whose ex-girlfriend was a Vail Daily reporter and whose campaign manager is a former Vail Daily columnist, was endorsed by the Vail Daily under the headline “Call us crazy: Hasan for HD 56.”
The previous month, Hasan’s Democratic opponent, Christine Scanlan of Dillon, got the nod from the Summit Daily.
Current Summit Daily editor Alex Miller, who used to be the editor of the Vail Daily, declined to comment on the dueling endorsements (HD 56 represents the central mountain counties of Eagle, Summit and Lake), except to say that the split shows Hasan did not buy the Vail Daily’s stamp of approval.
But in a comment posted on the Vail Daily’s Oct. 2 endorsement, someone identified as “Summit Editor” took current Vail Daily editor Don Rogers to task for backing Hasan:
“OK, you’re crazy Don! Just for the record for those accusing the Vail Daily of endorsing Ali because of ad dollars, we at the Summit Daily endorsed Scanlan. Sounds like VDN’s edit board bit on the, ahem, ‘maverick’ image Ali has conjured. Being kooky does not a good legislator make — just ask Douglas Bruce.”
For his part, Rogers in an e-mail scoffed at the notion his support was purchased: “Lots of very smart people invest a lot of money in the Vail Daily because they know they get a return in the paper that nine of every 10 people seek out to read.
“Even if we endorsed by how much a candidate spent, $70,000 or $100,000 is a drop in the bucket. Too little! In any case, I don’t believe you would find a pattern of the Vail Daily endorsing by the advertising dollar invested in our history because it’s simply not a factor in a newsroom.”
Hasan said he doesn’t believe the money he spent at the paper landed him the endorsement, but he does agree that wealthy, self-funded candidates have an advantage that needs to be addressed at the state level.
“I’m deeply proud that we received the Vail Daily endorsement, and it is not based on any kind of patronage — it is an honest endorsement,” Hasan wrote in an e-mail. “I completely agree that the current campaign finance laws give a huge advantage to candidates who can invest their own capital.
“However, the answer is not more regulation, rather, we need to completely repeal campaign finance reform. Before the inception of campaign finance reform, a working-class candidate could be funded by a small group of wealthy contributors, which sometimes happened. We need to go back to the the old system and get rid of the current one.”
Hasan wrote the following in his farewell column in the Vail Daily last year, an ode to the inspirational underdog Colorado Rockies:
“Yes, the Yankees will field an amazing team every year; but what purpose is it to cheer for a team that everyone knows is purchased? It is impossible to empathize with Goliath when we’re all Davids.”
To date, Hasan has spent nearly $240,000 on his campaign. Scanlan, who was appointed earlier this year to fill the seat in the House, has spent just under $65,000 in her bid for election.