Joe O’Dea is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea speaks at a Western Conservative Summit forum on Friday, June 3, 2022.

Businessman Joe O’Dea beat state Rep. Ron Hanks for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. O’Dea will face Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet this fall.

O’Dea thanked his supporters, calling Tuesday “not such a good night to be a Democratic super PAC.” Hanks was buoyed with an ad buy from a left-wing super PAC that touted Hanks’ conservative credentials. Mailers were also sent to Republican voters before the primary boosting Hanks, but did not include information required by the FEC on who was paying for and distributing the flier.

“And now we have it, the election Michael Bennet didn’t want,” O’Dea said.

He credited independents for his win, saying they showed up. 

“They voted for me in this primary,” O’Dea said. “And we’re going to work hard to keep him in our coalition this fall.”

While Colorado has tilted blue in recent elections, O’Dea is considered by many in the Republican establishment to be the candidate who has the greatest chance of besting Bennet in November. 

O’Dea has made kitchen table issues like inflation and crime the bedrock of his campaign, unlike Hanks who focused on issues important to the base, such as election security.

O’Dea said he will not vote the party line. 

“I’ll be more like a Republican Joe Manchin,” he said. 

His statement echoed a promise the last Republican senator from Colorado, Cory Gardner, made when he first ran for Senate, saying that he would call out his party when it was wrong.

O’Dea, who owns a construction business, said on Colorado Matters that he wants to see more money go toward law enforcement and that he would encourage domestic drilling for fossil fuels to ease inflation.

While O’Dea describes himself as pro-life, he said he would not support a federal ban on abortion early on in pregnancy after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion across the country for 50 years. Colorado voters upheld abortion rights in the state.

Despite political tailwinds helping Republican candidates this fall, they may not be enough for O’Dea. While unaffiliated voters are the largest voting block in the state, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. The Cook Political Report has listed this race as a likely Democratic seat.

Bennet is seeking his third term in the Senate in a state that has increasingly trended blue in recent years. He defeated Ken Buck in 2010 by about 30,000 votes. Six years later, Bennet beat Darryl Glenn by almost 155,000 votes.

He painted O’Dea as a Republican rubber stamper.

“He opposes a woman’s right to choose. He opposes common sense, bipartisan gun safety reform supported by Republicans in the Senate,” he said in a statement. “We can’t let him win.”

Bennet goes into the general campaign with one key advantage: a lot of cash. As of the pre-primary FEC filing, Bennet has almost $7 million to spend going into the general election. O’Dea has about $1 million.

CPR News's Andrew Kenney contributed to this report.