At a candidate meet-and-greet in Westminster Monday, Denver businessman and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea refused to speak with the Colorado Times Recorder, saying that he is not speaking to Democrats.
“I’m not talking to Democrats,” O’Dea said when approached for an interview. The Colorado Times Recorder is a nonpartisan news outlet whose coverage reflects a progressive perspective, as explained on our website.
But O’Dea, who owns a construction company and an event center in Denver, has let his money talk to Democrats.
He’s supported candidates from the Democratic Party since 2010, according to reports from Colorado’s Secretary of State TRACER database.
Since 2009, O’Dea has made monetary campaign donations to 13 candidates for public office in Colorado. Five of those 13 were Democrats, including then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) in his 2014 reelection campaign.
O’Dea’s campaign donations for these 13 candidates total just over $4,000.
O’Dea has talked to Democrats via the news media as well.
In 2008, O’Dea authored two op-eds, one in the Boulder-based Daily Camera and one in the Colorado Springs-based The Gazette, thanking then-Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO) for extending funding for a state panel tasked with educating Coloradans on public transportation funding. At the time, O’Dea was on an advisory committee for the panel.
During his campaign, O’Dea has painted himself as a moderate Republican and an ideal Republican to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in November. O’Dea is one of two Republican candidates who will be on the Republican primary ballot.
The other candidate is state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City) who won enough support from Republican delegates during Saturday’s Republican Assembly to appear on the primary ballot. O’Dea did not have to go through the assembly process as he gained enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, which will be voted on in June.
During Monday’s event, O’Dea said he is not focused on his Republican opponent.
“I’m a serious candidate,” O’Dea told the crowd of about 50 people. “I’m not going to get distracted by outside noise. We’re running one campaign, and it’s against Michael Bennet.”
O’Dea has publicly stated that he would have supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed through Congress last year.
During a February senate candidate forum, O’Dea said that those who committed violence during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol should face legal consequences, but that violence during the summer 2020 racial justice protests should be punished as well. Hanks attended the insurrection and has admitted to crossing police barriers.
In response to this increasingly popular Republican talking-point nationwide, Black activists point out that while the Capitol attack was motivated by debunked claims of election fraud by politicians who lost those elections, the police brutality protests were a response to systemic and very real injustices to marginalized communities. They are also pointing to the difference in police response to the 2020 protests compared to the Capitol attack.
Additionally, according to studies by Harvard and the Washington Post, 97% of police brutality protests during the summer of 2020 were completely peaceful and 95% of protests existed without any personal injury or property destruction.
There was undoubtedly looting, arson, and vandalism during the police brutality protests. But the lawbreakers were arrested and punished for their crimes, in spite of what O’Dea has insinuated.
Also during that forum, O’Dea said he would support building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to increase border security. Immigration experts have repeatedly explained why building a wall would not address the root problems causing immigration or drug trafficking.
Speaking to attendees of Monday’s event, O’Dea criticized what he called “reckless spending” by Democratic Party politicians at the federal level. He blamed Democratic politicians like Bennet for high inflation rates and gas prices, even though claims that environmental regulations increased gas prices this year have been debunked by independent fact-checkers.
According to a ProPublica report, O’Dea’s construction company received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $2.9 million in 2020 from the federal government to help weather the COVID-19 pandemic and cover payroll for an estimated 240 jobs. An O’Dea campaign spokesperson told the Colorado Sun that the loan was repaid the following month.
O’Dea also said he wanted the U.S. to achieve energy independence, even though that talking point is rooted in misconceptions itself.
In explaining that he’s been endorsed by the Denver Police Protective Association, the largest police organization in Colorado, O’Dea said that the Democratic Party has demonized law enforcement, oil and gas workers, ranchers, miners, and contractors like himself.
Logan M. Davis contributed to this article.