GOP Senate candidate Joe O’Dea hopes to move from the construction industry to Congress

It was the construction industry that brought O’Dea into politics.

“The first time I really got involved was at a Colorado Contractors Association legislative meeting around 1996,” the candidate recalls. “So I started thinking, how is this going to affect my business? It was a really good learning experience.

If elected, O’Dea would be the first person Colorado has sent to the Senate with no previous public sector or political experience since Eugene Millikin in the 1940s. he was appointed in 2010, but worked as superintendent of Denver Public Schools and served two years as chief of staff to then-mayor John Hickenlooper.)

Social Issues vs. Kitchen Table Concerns

O’Dea has drawn national attention for rejecting false allegations of fraud in the 2020 election and taking more moderate stances on issues such as immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion, compared to many other Republican senatorial candidates or even GOP congressmen from Colorado.

O’Dea said he doesn’t want President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump running for office in 2024. O’Dea wouldn’t say if he would vote for Trump if he were the party’s nominee in 2024.

The candidate called for more security along the southern border, in particular to combat drug trafficking. He also said he would support a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, who were illegally brought to the United States as children. Efforts to grant them legal status have been halted by many members of the Republican caucus.

O’Dea also said he would support codifying recognition of same-sex marriages at the federal level — another priority that hasn’t gained enough ground with Republicans to make it through the Senate.

On the issue of abortion, O’Dea expressed support for legal abortion up to 20 weeks, or later in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. He said he voted for a 22-week abortion ban in the 2020 Colorado ballot (voters broadly rejected it). And O’Dea also said he would have upheld Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, which ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade.

During this time, O’Dea attempted to focus the campaign on issues such as inflation, high gas prices, and crime. He says his business background and working-class roots would help him get things done on these issues.

“I can tell you that nothing gets done unless two parties come to an agreement,” O’Dea said. “And so I’m going to take those skills, and I’m going to use them in Washington to convince people that, ‘Here I have some ideas about how we do this.’ I will listen – I am a very good listener; You must also be respectful.

O’Dea has tried to walk a fine line in trying not to alienate GOP voters, while holding positions that could help him win over the electorate at large. It’s something Republicans have failed to do in a major statewide race in nearly a decade.

“We have a lot of problems here in Colorado that people want to solve,” he said. And while he knows some people want to focus on social issues like abortion, “most people want to talk about how we’re going to fix this economy.”

But that might not be enough to attract the voters O’Dea would need to win, especially in the wake of Roe’s overthrow, the Jan. 6 riot and the possibility of another Trump run. The race has national implications: The US Senate is evenly split, so a single senator could make the difference.

Despite his relatively moderate tone and past donations to bipartisan candidates, O’Dea was always a Republican: his first vote was for Ronald Regan. He says real conservatism is about “efficient little government” doing the basic things “that we need it to do, that it was designed to do.”

He said the government should focus on funding the police, which the federal government helps provide through grants, as well as the military, infrastructure and a more limited social safety net.

O’Dea said he believed the government should help with medical care for those who cannot otherwise afford it, but should not provide more general or ongoing support. “Paying people to stay home and not work is not my idea of ​​welfare.” (Many of the larger social safety net programs, such as food stamps or TANF, the current incarnation of social assistance, have work requirements for recipients.)

Asked about his opponent, Senator Bennet’s signature issue – expanding the child tax credit – O’Dea said he supports the idea, but only for low-income households. As part of the temporary expansion of the pandemic policy, the amount of credit increased and families were able to obtain it monthly. Families earning up to $150,000 or single filers earning up to $75,000 could claim the full child tax credit. This extension expired in April.

And though O’Dea said his company provides paid family and medical leave, he didn’t commit to whether Congress should institute a national policy to guarantee paid pregnancy and medical leave. other family medical problems. “I don’t know if we want to make this a permanent thing,” he said.

O’Dea also said he would not have supported the bipartisan gun safety law passed in Congress following the Uvalde school shooting.

“I didn’t like this law. I don’t believe we need more laws here in Colorado. We already have a red flag [law]. We didn’t need it here,” O’Dea told CPR’s Colorado Matters. “We haven’t enforced our laws, so until we start enforcing the ones that are on the books, I don’t see the point of adding any more.”

He said he doesn’t want to see the Biden administration act unilaterally on parts of Colorado’s public lands bill known as the CORE Act, which Bennet and Sen. John Hickenlooper are calling for. The CORE Act has four provisions that would place additional protections on more than 400,000 acres of public land.

As for rising inflation, O’Dea sees it as the result of government spending and the “asleep at the wheel” Federal Reserve. Some economists said the Federal Reserve was slow to raise interest rates, a strategy to cool the economy the institution is now using aggressively.

“We have to reduce big government. We need to bring our spending levels back to pre-COVID levels. There’s no reason to keep some of these programs in place for COVID,” O’Dea said.

Rising inflation is happening around the world and is due to several factors, including government spending, supply chain issues, post-pandemic surge in demand, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. .

Most analysts retained the seat in the Democratic column, with many polls showing Bennet in the lead. A Republican poll, however, put O’Dea neck and neck with Bennet.

O’Dea also trails Bennet when it comes to campaign money. Bennet had just over $8 million on hand that summer, while O’Dea had just over $800,000 at the time. National Republicans poured money into his race, but not as much as the battleground states.

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