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Joe O’Dea beats Ron Hanks in Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senate primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea discusses health care, abortion and election integrity during a debate with state Rep. Ron Hanks on June 20, 2022, hosted by The Colorado Sun and CBS4. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
O'Dea, a first-time candidate, overcame millions of dollars in Democratic spending to aid his primary opponent, state Rep. Ron Hanks

First-time candidate Joe O’Dea on Tuesday secured the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Colorado despite millions of dollars in Democratic spending to aid his primary opponent, state Rep. Ron Hanks.

The Associated Press projected at about 7:30 p.m. that O’Dea would win.

In unofficial statewide results, O’Dea who owns a Denver construction company, had 54.55% of the vote compared with the 45.45 of the vote that went to Hanks.

In Montezuma County unofficial results Hanks had 56.65% of the vote comparted to O’Dea’s 43.35%, or 2,772 votes to 2,121.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State, 7,364 votes were cast in Montezuma County out of 18,866 active voters, or 39.03%.

Democrat Michael Bennet won his race unchallenged.

Democratic Colorado, a Democratic political action committee, spent more than $4 million on TV ads during the primary, including $1.6 million in the final days, to boost Hanks’ profile and attack O’Dea. Other Democratic groups paid for mailers and text messages to increase Hanks’ chances of winning.

Labor groups and the Colorado Democratic Party held a news conference late last week to scrutinize O’Dea’s record as a business owner in what appeared to be a final attempt to sink his campaign during the primary.

Democrats made it clear that they’d rather Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet face Hanks in the November general election because they saw O’Dea as a more formidable opponent. And in a primary election in which polling showed voters didn’t really know either candidate, there was a potential for the spending to make a big difference.

But O’Dea and a super PAC supporting him dropped about $1 million on TV ads in recent days to counter the Democratic spending and attack Hanks. And it appears to have worked.

O’Dea is more moderate than Hanks. He thinks abortions should be allowed early in a pregnancy and rejects claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. He also said that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, shouldn’t be repealed right now.

Republican U.S. Senate candidates Joe O’Dea, left, and Ron Hanks. (Colorado Sun photos)

Hanks is a 2020 election denier who attended the rally preceding the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. He said all abortions should be outlawed and attacked O’Dea as being a squishy conservative, especially since O’Dea has donated to Democratic candidates – including Bennet – in the past.

Unaffiliated voter Sara Normandin, a 43-year-old in Lakewood, voted in the Republican primary for candidates she felt were most likely to lose to Democrats in November, including Hanks, gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez and 7th Congressional District candidate Tim Reichert.

“I voted Republican because I’m hoping that the Democrats win,” Normandin said. “I voted for those most likely to lose.”

Bennet will be tough for Republicans to beat in November. He has been a U.S. senator since 2009, when he was appointed to his seat by then-Gov. Bill Ritter, a fellow Democrat, to fill a vacancy left by then-Sen. Ken Salazar’s appointment as Secretary of the Interior.

No Republican running for statewide office has won more than 45% of the vote since 2016. Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election prognosticator, says Colorado’s U.S. Senate race this year is likely tilting in Democrats’ favor despite the fact that the party is “staring down one of their worst political environments in nearly a decade.”

This is a developing story that will be updated.