Joe O’Dea plots GOP upset of Sen. Michael Bennet in blue-ish Colorado

Ask Republican Joe O’Dea what he thinks about Democrats meddling in the Colorado GOP Senate primary to elevate Ron Hanks, who supports former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and he doesn’t hold back.

“I just thought the hypocrisy was ridiculous,” O’Dea told the Washington Examiner Friday.

O’Dea is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) this fall after defeating Hanks 54.5% to 45.5% in Colorado’s Tuesday primary. Hanks questions President Joe Biden’s legitimacy. He is exactly the sort of Republican that Democrats have warned threatens the fabric of America’s democracy in the wake of Trump’s effort to overturn Biden’s Electoral College victory that dovetailed with the ransacking of the Capitol in Washington by the former president’s grassroots supporters on Jan. 6. And yet Democrats poured money into the Colorado GOP Senate primary to boost Hanks, believing him to be less of a threat to Bennet in the midterm elections.

“The commercials they were running, claiming I was too moderate — at the same (time,) they’ve got this congressional review of what happened on Jan. 6?” O’Dea said, referencing a House select committee’s investigation into Jan. 6 and the fact that Hanks marched to the Capitol with other Trump supporters the day Congress convened to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory. “It’s laughable.”

O’Dea, 60, is a fourth-generation Coloradan who runs a major construction company with his wife that the couple founded 35 years ago out of their home.

As O’Dea’s firm grew in size and success, so too did the Democratic Party’s stranglehold on Colorado politics. Republicans have not won a gubernatorial contest in the state since 2002, they have not won a presidential contest there since 2004, and they last won a Senate seat in Colorado in the GOP wave year of 2014 — and just barely. Heading into the midterm elections, every statewide constitutional office and both Senate seats are controlled by the Democrats, making O’Dea’s bid to oust Bennet an uphill climb even amid a fall campaign shaping up as a Republican wave.


Joe O’Dea, a Colorado Republican, is campaigning to replace incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) during the 2022 midterm elections.

(Photo courtesy of Joe O’Dea’s campaign)

Perhaps that’s why O’Dea is emphasizing that he is not running on the social issues that are animating so much of the GOP in the Trump era. Rather, O’Dea said, he is fixated on curing runaway inflation and skyrocketing gas prices and doing away with the onerous federal regulations that he argues stifle businesses, which in turn depress wages and economic growth generally. But O’Dea might not have the luxury of focusing strictly on kitchen-table economic issues in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center that overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated federal protections for abortion rights.

Democrats are hammering Republicans on this issue, and in a blue state like Colorado, voter opinions on abortion rights could matter a great deal. O’Dea seems to understand that he is walking a very delicate political tightrope, not wanting to turn off moderate voters, independents, or disaffected Democrats unhappy with Biden’s leadership and willing to entertain a Republican, but not wanting to lose the support of a GOP base that is decidedly opposed to abortion rights and thrilled with the Dobbs ruling.

“I’ve been very clear with where I’ve been with Roe v. Wade. I thought the precedent should have stayed in place,” O’Dea said, explaining that he supported the landmark 1973 decision that established federal protections for abortion rights. He said the Democrats are “trying to lie to people, now, telling them I’m pro-life. But I’m not. I support the (previous) status quo. I think most Americans are there. They’re in the middle.”

However, O’Dea made clear he opposes late-term abortions and attempted to paint Bennet as extreme for backing a Democratic bill in the Senate to legalize abortion at any stage of pregnancy. “I think Bennet is reckless with a late-term abortion bill. That doesn’t resonate with a lot of working Americans,” O’Dea said, although he underscored his opposition to any legislation banning abortion that does not allow exceptions for rape, incest, and a “medical necessity” as required to preserve the mother’s health.

But absent those exceptions, what, in O’Dea’s view, would constitute a “late-term” abortion? And, if O’Dea does not consider himself “pro-life,” does he consider himself “pro-choice”? The Republican, who was adopted as a child and is sensitive to such issues, sidestepped both questions. Instead, he offered his vague support for outlawing abortion “somewhere around viability” while saying, “That’s a debate we need to have.” O’Dea was much more comfortable discussing fiscal topics.

The businessman said his effort in Congress would go toward slashing regulations, cutting government spending, and reducing the size and scope of government.

“It’s not so much about passing new laws. It’s about cutting our government back — bureaucracy that’s out of control. It’s red tape that (is) crushing businesses,” O’Dea said, by way of explanation. “We have to return businesses to a place where they can actually function.”

What would O’Dea get rid of?

Not Social Security or Medicare, popular social programs that, along with Medicaid, are the biggest drivers of the federal debt. “We’ve made certain promises to the American people, and we need to keep our promises,” he said. Nor would O’Dea support cutting funds for law enforcement, believing the government needs to invest more tax dollars in putting more police officers on the beat. “I’d be an advocate for putting more money into cops, more cops on the street, more cops in school.”


So, where would he cut otherwise? “All of it,” O’Dea said, would be on the chopping block. “We don’t need government in our life every day.”

“People are fired up, they want some change, and we’re going to give them a vehicle to make that change,” he said. “People don’t want the status quo. They want to shake it up.”