Colorado Senate nominee Joe O’Dea blamed Sen. Michael Bennet for rising crime and inflation – two issues he said Centennial State voters care about most.
“Working Americans here in Colorado are fed up with the status quo,” he told Fox News. “He’s been there 13 years and he’s caused the problem.”
O’Dea, who considers himself a moderate Republican, is facing a tough race against Bennet. Polling has been sparse and somewhat inconsistent, though O’Dea is typically within striking distance.
“I’m not worried about these polls. It’ll be what it will be,” he said. “But I guarantee you, working Americans are fired up about my campaign.”
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“I’ve been to all 64 counties. And what people are talking about is inflation,” O’Dea, who dropped out of college to form his own construction company, said. “They’re talking about price of gas. They’re talking about groceries at an all-time high.”
Inflation rose 8.3% in August across the U.S. — a slight ease from 8.5% in July, which marked a 40-year high. Average gas prices have dropped since hitting a record $5 per gallon in June, according to AAA.
O’Dea blamed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – and Bennet’s yea vote for the COVID-19 relief legislation – as a major driver behind inflation. He said his challenger and President Biden “crushed the oil and gas industries,” causing increased fuel prices.
As senator, O’Dea said he would push legislation to expedite the permitting process for renewable energy sources.
“We need to promote wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, good, clean, natural gas, and we need to get permitting out of the way,” he told Fox News. “We need to clean up that process so we can return the United States to energy dominance.”
Proponents of permitting reform argue that the process to approve new energy projects for fossil fuels and renewables alike is burdensome and face years of delays. Sen. Joe Manchin agreed to support the Democrats’ massive Inflation Reduction Act spending package in order to get permitting reform pushed through the Senate, but his legislation was pulled.
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“We need to be an exporter of liquid natural gas on both coasts,” O’Dea said, noting that it would help alleviate Europe’s energy crisis amid the war in Ukraine and help supply Asian nations with a cleaner energy source.
O’Dea, the adopted son of a cop, also pointed to rising crime as a top priority for Colorado voters. Violent crime increased 17% between 2019 and 2021, while homicides rose 47%, Colorado Public Radio reported in March.
“It’s made people really feel unsecure,” O’Dea told Fox News. “They’re worried about their kids. They’re worried about their communities.”
Voters “know that Democrats are the ones that have gutted and demoralized our police forces,” he added.
Like crime and inflation, abortion has also been a top issue cited regarding the midterm elections. Democrats have tried to leverage votes by arguing that Republicans want to restrict or ban abortions, and some GOP candidates have softened their language on the topic.
O’Dea stands out among his fellow Republican candidates as pro-choice, supporting abortion access for the first 22 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy and after that would allow exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother.
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Bennet has argued that his challenger aims to limit abortion and would have helped confirm the Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. O’Dea has aggressively pushed against those claims.
“I think what’s extreme is Michael Bennet’s position on this issue,” O’Dea told Fox News. “He’s in favor of late term abortion on demand up until the day of birth.”
Bennet’s campaign declined to make the senator available for an interview. A campaign staffer offered to reply to written questions, but Fox News’ inquiries went unanswered.
O’Dea also said Colorado voters are concerned about border security, particularly the Latino community, which makes up 22% of the state’s population, according to CPR.
“They’re really worried about this crime that has taken over Mexico coming up into their neighborhoods,” O’Dea told Fox News. “We’ve got drug cartels that are running our southern border.”
“We’ve got fentanyl all time high coming up in here to our communities,” he continued. “Drug trafficking. Human trafficking.”
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There were more than 1,900 overdose deaths in Colorado from April 2021 through March 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly half of those were from synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“This is a real concern to the Hispanic community,” O’Dea said, noting that his wife’s grandfather immigrated from Mexico in the 1950s.
“The Democratic Party is out of touch on this issue here,” the Republican added. “They’re complaining about, you know, flying some immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard to gain attention about an issue that’s killing our kids.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faced criticism from Democrats after flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard as part of several Republicans’ attempt to bring the border crisis to liberal cities.
O’Dea said Congress needs to take the Inflation Reduction Act money used to bankroll “87,000 IRS bureaucrats” and reroute it “to secure our border, hire more border agents” and also “put it into our local police departments … to get this crime under control.”
“I’m going to work hard to secure that border,” O’Dea told Fox News. “We need to put together an immigration process that works here in the United States. But we need to make sure that the drug cartels are not running that border.”
Isabelle McDonnell contributed to the accompanying video.