Colorado businessman Joe O’Dea defeated state Rep. Ron Hanks on Tuesday to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. He will face Democrat U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November.
At 7:30 p.m., cheers of “Let’s Go, Joe!” broke out at O’Dea’s campaign watch party in Denver. The race had been called by Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman minutes before. The Associated Press called the race for O’Dea shortly after. At about 7:45 p.m., O’Dea had about 161,000 votes to Hanks’ 119,000.
Bennet is seeking his third full term.
O’Dea positioned himself as the more moderate option, explicitly telling reporters he’s less interested in divisive social issues than pocketbook things like inflation. He highlights his biography as an adopted son of a Denver police officer who went on to found a construction company. This is his first run for political office.
Hanks, in turn, boasted of being the only anti-abortion candidate in the race and of his participation in former President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally that preceded a mob storming the U.S. Capitol. Hanks has said he was not part of that group, however. He rejects the results of the 2020 presidential election and told the Colorado Sun he wouldn’t necessarily accept the results of Tuesday’s primary vote, either.
He just finished his first term as a state representative from Fremont County and previously mounted an unsuccessful bid for a California Congress seat in 2010. He has said he previously worked in energy production in North Dakota and served in the U.S. Air Force on active and reserve duty for 32 years.
The candidates took different paths to the election. At the GOP state convention in the spring, Hanks rode a swell of support from some of the state’s staunchest Republicans to the top of the ballot. The effort kept five other candidates off the ballot and he marks it as a point of proof of his conservative bona fides.
O’Dea petitioned onto the ballot, a typically more expensive route that underscored another difference in the campaigns. O’Dea’s campaign had money. Much of it from the candidate himself.
They entered the final stretch of the campaign with a gulf of cash between them: $1 million in cash-on-hand for O’Dea versus about $20,000 for Hanks. Since then, O’Dea has contributed another $500,000 to his campaign and bringing the total in self-funding to more than $1.6 million.
But dwarfing spending from both campaigns was a super PAC calling itself Democratic Colorado. That organization spent more than $4.2 million on advertising that warns Hanks is “too conservative for Colorado.” Critics contend it serves to boost Hanks’ profile in an election that determines the conservative party’s nominee.
That’s separate from anonymous mailers promoting Hanks that went out around the time voters started receiving primary ballots. That led to O’Dea’s campaign filing an FEC complain and lawsuit to root out the source.
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