Republican businessman Joe O’Dea won Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary in Colorado, overcoming Democratic interference to boost his primary opponent and potentially setting up a close race with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in the fall.
O’Dea defeated state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Jan. 6 insurrection attendee who built much of his campaign around former president Donald Trump’s lies about the election and was widely seen as unelectable in Colorado, which backed President Joe Biden by 14 percentage points in 2020. O’Dea, a relative moderate, has accepted Biden’s victory and is seen as potential threat to Bennet.
National Republicans were not-so-quietly rooting for O’Dea, though they did not spend directly on the race.
Democrats, through the auspices of a group called Democratic Colorado that has kept its donors secret, spent millions boosting Hanks’ candidacy with television and digital ads, along with mail pieces. The ads played up Hanks’ conservative positions, including his belief the 2020 election was stolen, and attacked O’Dea for moderate positions, including his support of the bipartisan infrastructure law Congress passed last year.
The strategy was controversial, with both Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans fearful it could backfire by giving Hanks a larger platform.
Bennet, a former Denver schools superintendent who is running for a third term, is a low-key moderate who made a failed run for president in 2020 and has assembled a $6 million war chest for the fall.