Updated May 22, 2022
A wide field of Republican candidates originally jumped into Colorado’s U.S. Senate, all hoping incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet will prove vulnerable in what is expected to be a strong year for Republicans.
The GOP caucus process narrowed that field significantly, leaving just two contenders on the June primary ballot. Their first debate highlighted significant differences between the two men on issues like abortion, election integrity and foreign policy.
Here are the candidates who remain in the Senate race:
Ron Hanks: Hanks is a first-term state lawmaker, representing Fremont, Chaffee, Park and Custer counties in the Colorado House. He retired in 2017 from a 32-year career in the Air Force, including numerous overseas deployments. He also worked in the oil industry in North Dakota. During his time in the legislature, Hanks has attracted controversy for racist comments and for attending the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. in support of then-President Trump, although he has said he did not enter the Capitol. As one of the most conservative members of the legislature, Hanks has sponsored bills to allow concealed carry without a permit, repeal a ban on large capacity magazines, create tax credits for parents who send their children to private and religious schools, and to eliminate early and mail-in voting. All of those measurers were voted down. Hanks won top-line billing on the GOP primary ballot through a strong showing at the state assembly in April.
Joe O’Dea: A newcomer to electoral politics, O’Dea grew up in Denver and attended Colorado State University before leaving to found his own construction company. He and his wife also own the Ironworks entertainment venue near Mile High stadium. O'Dea is pitching himself as a moderate, with an eye on attracting unaffiliated voters in the general election. He supports legal abortion in limited cases, but has said he isn't focused on social issues. Instead, his main priorities are economic concerns, like inflation, and combatting rising crime. So far O’Dea has the largest war chest in the Republican field; donating more than a half-million dollars to his own campaign. He qualified for the ballot through the signature process.
Michael Bennet: Bennet, who was first appointed to his seat in 2009, is running for a third term. If he wins, he will become the state’s longest-serving senator in decades. Before entering politics, Bennet served as the superintendent of Denver Public Schools. He was also chief of staff to now-Senator John Hickenlooper when the latter was mayor of Denver. In the Senate, Bennet has focused on expanding the Child Tax Credit and trying to win new protections for public lands in western Colorado. He has also participated in several bipartisan working groups over the years. In 2020, he mounted an unsuccessful campaign for president. He holds the cash advantage in the race, with $6.1 million in the bank as of the end of March.
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