The assignment seems easy. Cover an event for Joe O’Dea, the Republican Party candidate for U.S. Senate.
A top construction company executive who’s new to being a candidate, O’Dea is a “fiscal conservative” challenging incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett.
Three questions are uppermost for me.
How does O’Dea plan to ensure winning the votes of loyal Republicans after Trump on October 17 publicly trashed him?
Does O’Dea believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen? If not, how does he explain including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an election doubter if not denier, among the Republicans who’d earn his vote for president in 2024?
And how well does he grasp the principles and practices of a republican democracy, including Senate rules and procedures that govern lawmaking?
I head to the event, a Saturday afternoon “meet-and-greet” reception at Finn McCool’s Bar and Grill in Englewood. O’Dea is scheduled to be joined by Lang Sias, GOP candidate for State Treasurer, and by Pam Anderson, GOP candidate for Colorado Secretary of State.
The reception is scheduled to start at 3:3O p.m. in the bar near Arapahoe Road and Yosemite, tucked away next to the southbound onramp for I-25. Guessing when the candidates will start their stump speeches, I arrive close to 4 p.m. Parking lot signage leads me to a crowded covered patio. A friendly couple opens the screen door for me to step inside.
Lang Sias is speaking. A former Navy combat pilot, current PERA board member, and the representative for Colorado House District 27 since 2015, Sias calls himself “a champion for transparency and accountability.”
Pam Anderson then takes over the microphone. Formerly the Wheat Ridge City Clerk, she served as the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder until 2020, also the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association until 2020. She’s since operated Consilium Colorado, a home-based government relations and nonprofit consultancy. She earned her candidacy by winning the GOP primary last June.
Anderson begins her talk by accusing current Secretary of State Jena Griswold of corruption, offering no specifics. Anderson promises to “restore professionalism and confidence” to the Secretary of State’s office, implying Griswold lacks both.
Anderson calls for “safe elections” and warns about “terrorism” targeting election officials in Colorado. She does not mention that threats against election officials and poll workers largely come from Republicans and Trump loyalists.
Joe O’Dea steps up next. He declares that Michael Bennet is “running scared,” Actually, polling by Marist shows Bennet is running six points ahead of O’Dea. Real Clear Politics reports Bennet holding at least a seven-point lead since September.
O’Dea then blasts Bennet for being appointed, not legitimately elected. Indeed, Bennet was appointed in 2009 to fill the Senate seat vacated when Ken Salazar joined the Obama administration. Since 2010, however, Bennet has twice won reelection.
O’Dea blames Bennet and President Joe Biden for the economy and rising inflation, He ignores that academic economists widely attribute recession and higher prices to the economic impacts of Covid-19, which have been offset by congressional Democrats’ economic stimulus packages, like the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act.
Economists mostly blame inflation on such Covid-related issues as global supply chain breakdowns, plus recent fossil fuel price increases since Russia invaded Ukraine and Russia-aligned OPEC nations like Saudia Arabia cut oil production. O’Dea does not discuss alternative fuels or renewable energy.
O’Dea condemns Bennet and Biden for the influx of immigration at the southern border. He bypasses that the influx mainly is caused by deteriorating economic and social conditions in Central and South America, forcing people to flee for their lives.
The inference in GOP anti-immigration talking points is that more people of color entering the United States, both legally and illegally, threatens the white majority that the U.S. Census predicts will become a white minority around 2045. A racial bias is evident by the applause from the all-white audience packing the patio to hear O’Dea warn against higher immigration.
All these factors, O’Dea says, explain “why I got into the race,” a catchphrase repeated several times in his short stump speech.
After his talk, as the crowd begins to disperse, I approach O’Dea and identify myself as a journalist, requesting a brief interview. He halts me midsentence, motioning for a younger man to join him, apparently his press aide.
The press aide asks who I represent. As soon as I say that I’m writing for The Times Recorder, his face hardens and he swiftly ushers me away from his candidate and out the door. He makes it clear the publication is offensive to him.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask him at the doorway, “You realize how this makes you look?”
He replies, “I don’t care.”
So ends my day trying to cover Joe O’Dea, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Colorado.
CORRECTION: An initial version of this story stated that O’Dea had canceled an event at Bible Park. But the event actually took place, according to a GOP spokesperson who pointed to a Facebook post about it.