DENVER ( Associated Press) — Joe O’Dea spoke to hundreds of social conservatives and delivered words they’re not used to hearing from a Republican US Senate candidate: “I know my position on abortion. not like all yours.”
O’Dea, a businessman who has publicly declared his support for abortion rights, told the crowd that he supports a ban on late-term abortions and public funding of abortions. But, according to him, the decision to terminate the pregnancy in the first months is “between man and their God.”
In other matters, O’Dea sounds like a typical conservative. He wants to cut government regulation and increase oil and gas production, and opposes gun restrictions. But his support for abortion rights stands out among the Republican Party, in which opposition to the procedure has become a cornerstone.
His main challenger in Tuesday’s primary is Rep. Ron Hanks.who opposes abortion under any circumstances. The two are vying to take on Democratic Senator Michael Bennett, who won his first Senate race in 2010 by crushing his Republican rival over opposition to abortion rights.
Republican voter Carla Davis, who describes herself as “100% pro-life,” believes O’Dea will be a stronger candidate in the general election against Bennett in a state that has rejected initiatives to limit or ban abortion four times since 2008.
“You have to give in on the little things to make things work,” said Davis, a 60-year-old marketing executive who attended a recent O’Dea event.
However, if O’Dea does win the Republican primary, it will be due in part to financial advantage rather than strategic choice by GOP voters. He spent over $600,000 of his own money on his Senate candidacy while Hanks’ campaign raised less than $60,000.
Hanks, who said he walked to the US Capitol on January 6 but did not enter the building during the uprising, said O’Dea’s views did not align with those of most Republican primary voters.
“His political stance would put him to the left of Mitt Romney,” Hanks said in an interview. “The message is not Republican, it’s not conservative, it’s not anti-life.”
Hanks has received some help from the Democratic group, who see him as an easier opponent for Bennett. The group spent $800,000 advertising his candidacy in the GOP primary, warning that he was “too conservative” to support a total ban on abortion and allow anyone to carry a firearm in public.
Conservatives fear something similar will happen if Hanks becomes the candidate. “Instead of talking about the economy and not about inflation, you will talk about abortion,” said Mario Nicolais, a lawyer and activist who left the Republican Party in part because of the criticism he received after he supported the vote. on the ban on abortion in the United States. 22 weeks – Critics wanted to completely ban abortion.
For Nikolais, this demonstrates how hard some Republicans are against abortion rights, which has led in part to their marginalization in the state. The 22-week ban failed in the November 2020 elections, just as voters rejected other initiatives to limit or ban abortion in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
Colorado in 1967 became the first state to ease abortion restrictions, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade nationally guaranteed abortion rights in 1973. The Democratic-controlled legislature passed legislation this year. guarantee of full access to abortion in the state, even the Supreme Court overrules Row. Leaked draft Supreme Court decision indicates that this could happen by the time the court’s term expires this month, around the same time as the Colorado primary on Tuesday.
The Bennett campaign cited this pending decision as a reason for Colorado voters to be wary of the Republican Party.
“Both Republican candidates are too right for our state,” spokeswoman Georgina Beven said. “Colorans are even more aware of the need to elect pro-choice candidates this November, and Michael will always be committed to protecting women’s reproductive rights in the US Senate.”
Had O’Dea been elected, he would have joined Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski as the only Republican senators to publicly support Rowe against Wade.
However, the state is home to a core group of vocal anti-abortion rights groups, including many religious groups alarmed at the prospect of no like-minded candidate running for the Senate in the fall.
“The dignity of every human being—born and unborn—should be undeniable and non-negotiable,” said Paul J. Batura, spokesman for the Family Focus religious group, which does not run in the primary. “In November, Colorados and voters around the world deserve the opportunity to express their convictions against life at the polls.”
The largest conservative event in the state is the Western Conservative Summit sponsored by Colorado Christian University. It was there, in a huge resort near the Denver International Airport, that O’Dea received a courteous welcome from a crowd that was mostly quiet as he briefly discussed abortion. Hanks, who preceded him, was greeted with roars as he laid out his adamant stance on the issue.
“When we’re fighting for life, sometimes we’re not fighting for life, we’re fighting for everything,” Hanks said. “Because everyone deserves a birthday.”
O’Dea chided Hanks, a former Army intelligence officer who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California in 2010. Hanks said he was opposed to abortion, but his campaign literature said he had “a measured and narrow window for medical experts.” This admonishment prompted O’Dea to accuse Hanks of “keeping his finger on the pulse”. Hanks said in an interview that he changed his position because the improvement of medical technology makes it easier to save the mother’s life in case of complications.
But most of O’Dea’s speech did not address abortion, an issue he says he has never heard from voters. Most voters, O’Dea said in an interview, are concerned about inflation and crime, two issues that he relentlessly raised during the campaign.
A political newcomer, O’Dea has donated to both Democrats and Republicans in the past. He donated $500 to Bennett in 2010. O’Dea said he made most of his donations to Democrats while leading a construction industry organization that paid to participate in campaign fundraising, and that he would ask for his money back on the debate stage.
O’Dea says he voted for Donald Trump twice but has no opinion on whether the former president should run again and has voluntarily said he likes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s potential challenger in the 2024 GOP primary year. O’Dea said he supports Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, who are among the justices who appear to support Rowe’s repeal, and sees no contradiction between that and his views on abortion.
“I don’t do social issues,” O’Dea said, “and people don’t talk about social issues except for reporters and Ron Hanks.”