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Colorado Republicans pick O’Dea to face Bennet for Senate

Nomination likely to spark national interest in fall race

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will face a construction company owner who self-funded part of his primary campaign and is likely to attract national GOP support in the fall campaign.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will face a construction company owner who self-funded part of his primary campaign and is likely to attract national GOP support in the fall campaign. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Colorado construction company owner Joe O’Dea — the rare Republican in a competitive congressional race to support abortion rights — won his party’s nomination Tuesday to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet

O’Dea was leading state Rep. Ron Hanks 57 percent to 43 percent when The Associated Press called the race at 7:35 p.m. Mountain time. 

O’Dea’s nomination is almost certain to raise national interest in the Colorado Senate race. If elected, he would join only a handful of Republicans in Congress who have deviated from their party’s push to outlaw abortions under almost any circumstances at a crucial moment in the nation’s battle over reproductive rights. O’Dea says the procedure should be allowed early in preganancy — although he has declined to say when he would impose a cutoff — in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

National Republicans see Bennet as potentially weak in a November election that is expected to favor the party that doesn’t control the White House. They say privately that chances of flipping the seat increase with O’Dea as the nominee because his platform is more in line with general election voters in the purple state. 

But Democrats say O’Dea is still more extreme than the majority of Colorado voters. They plan to attack him on his objections to a state law protecting abortion rights — he has said it is “reckless” — and his statments that he supported the justices that former President Donald Trump appointed to the Supreme Court. Those justices, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, joined the majority opinion that last week eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States. 

O’Dea also unequivocally accepts that Biden won the 2020 election: “I’ve been very clear about my stance,” he said in a recent debate. “Biden’s our president. He’s lousy.” And he says he would not vote to repeal the 2010 health care law. 

O’Dea had significantly more money to spend on his campaign — he raised more than $1.2 million and kicked in another $1.1 million of his own money. Hanks, by comparison, raised $125,000 — an unusually small amount for a competitive Senate campaign. 

Democratic groups also pitched in to help Hanks, who they saw as an easier opponent in November. A group called Democratic Colorado spent $4 million on the race and aired ads questioning O’Dea’s conservative credentials and calling Hanks “too conservative for Colorado,” which some Republicans have said was a transparent attempt to boost Hanks’ profile with right-leaning voters before the primary.  

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