A Republican newcomer is campaigning on the need to tackle rising crime and boost support for law enforcement in his bid to run a Democratic seat red in Colorado in November.
Joe O’Dea, 60, said he wants to get tough on crime in his state, citing his experience as the son of a police officer. Mr. O’Dea’s father, Edward “Doc” O’Dea, was a Denver police officer.
Mr O’Dea, a construction company owner, said part of his stance to bolster security in Colorado is to support law enforcement as officers retire and resign at high levels in the state and elsewhere.
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“We have to support our police. When people demoralize the police, it touches me to have my father as a cop,” Mr O’Dea said. “A lot of Democrats in Colorado haven’t used their votes [to support police]and that’s why we are where we are right now with the increase in crime.
O’Dea’s concerns about crime come as cities across the country face a surge in violence.
Denver’s violent crime rate in 2021 hit the highest recorded in the city since 1994, with 928 crimes per 100,000 residents.
Mr. O’Dea was the first Republican to secure a spot in Colorado’s June 28 primary in the race to challenge Democratic Senator Michael Bennet in November.
Candidates running for statewide office in Colorado must receive support from at least 30% of state delegates to qualify for the ballot.
Colorado Republicans voted earlier this month to advance state Rep. Ron Hanks for the primary. Mr Hanks came forward claiming former President Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election.
Mr. Hanks’ ascension ended bids from five other GOP candidates who hoped to secure a spot on the ballot but could not garner enough support from delegates.
Mr. O’Dea opted to collect petition signatures to be on the ballot, instead of going through the state assembly. He is focusing his campaign on economic and social issues, rather than Mr. Trump and the 2020 election.
In addition to reducing crime, Mr. O’Dea wants to strengthen schools and infrastructure, reduce taxes and mitigate the costs of inflation.
Although election forecasters view Colorado’s Senate race as favoring Democrats, O’Dea said there could be a hidden backlash among voters frustrated with the economy and other issues that have eroded the support for Democrats and the Biden administration.
“Some of the policies put in place by the Democrats are causing a rebellion,” Mr O’Dea said. “Some people are fed up. They don’t need more government in their life. We no longer need help.
Mr. Bennet is seeking a third full term this year. The Democrat was appointed by the governor at the time. Bill Ritter in 2009 to replace Senator Ken Salazar, who left the post to serve as Secretary of the Interior under former President Barack Obama.
Mr. Bennett won a full term a year later and went on a brief presidential run in 2020. The incumbent has raised nearly $7 million, with more than $3 million in campaign money on hand.
The Democrat, however, is the only incumbent senator who refuses donations from corporate political action committees and federal lobbyists, according to his campaign.
Mr. Bennet’s campaign website says he plans to continue delivering for Coloradans, citing his work on climate change, COVID relief and the fight against child poverty, as well as his bipartisanship.
“Through his years in the Senate, Michael has built a reputation for listening to Coloradians by letting their needs guide his agenda in Washington and for working with Republicans and Democrats to address Colorado’s greatest challenges and our country,” he said.
Colorado Democrats have accused the Republican of once financially supporting Mr Bennett, as well as fellow Colorado Democratic senator John Hickenlooper.
“Joe O’Dea will pursue Ron Hanks in a costly and unpleasant Republican Senate primary centered on Trump and the denial of the election. As a candidate, O’Dea plays politics and attacks Democrats, but that won’t erase his long history of donating to Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper,” said Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Nico Delgado.
Cook’s nonpartisan political report upgraded that race from “solid Democrat” to “probable Democrat” in February.