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Election 2022

Joe O’Dea, supporters throw nearly $1M into U.S. Senate primary to counter Democratic spending for Ron Hanks

Election Day is Tuesday and O'Dea and a super PAC supporting him have spent nearly $1 million in recent days to get him over the line

Republican U.S. Senate candidates Ron Hanks, left, and Joe O’Dea discuss health care, abortion and election integrity during a debate on June 20, 2022, hosted by The Colorado Sun and CBS4. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
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Denver construction company owner Joe O’Dea and a super PAC backing his campaign have injected nearly $1 million into the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in recent days as they try to counter millions of dollars in spending by Democrats to help his opponent, state Rep. Ron Hanks, in the primary. 

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O’Dea gave $500,000 of his own money to his campaign at the end of last week, bringing his total personal investment to nearly $2 million. Meanwhile, the American Policy Fund, a political action committee backing O’Dea that is funded by contractors, spent $300,000 on the race last week to oppose Hanks. 

Much of the spending appears to be going toward buying TV ads. The primary election is Tuesday.

“Since this began several weeks ago, the outpouring of support has been incredible,” said Zack Roday, O’Dea’s campaign manager, referencing the Democratic spending on Hanks’ behalf. “Everyone has leaned in to host events, to contribute to do more all across the state. And that’s really been encouraging to Joe and the team.” 

MORE: Still haven’t cast your ballot in Colorado’s primaries? We’re here to help.

The American Policy Fund started running a new TV ad saying that “Colorado conservatives can’t trust Ron Hanks” and labeling him a RINO — Republican in name only — by claiming that when Hanks ran for Congress in California in 2010 he supported restrictions on people’s Second Amendment Rights. 

In a survey Hanks filled out as part of that California campaign, when he ran as “Loren Hanks,” he said he supported restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms, but not for “law-abiding citizens.” Hanks said he believes “felons and those deemed dangerous by a lawful process should not be allowed to have guns.”

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American Policy Fund is a GOP super PAC that through the end of April had received $700,000 from several Colorado contractors. It began spending on TV and digital ads supporting O’Dea in April. The group has spent more than $1 million since April.

The spending — who is also raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual donors — appears aimed at trying to blunt the impact of millions of dollars being spent by Democrats to boost Hanks’ profile. Democrats believe Hanks is more beatable in the general election than O’Dea.

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Democratic Colorado, a federal super PAC leading the effort, spent more than $4.2 million on ads propping up Hanks, whose campaign has raised little money, and attacking O’Dea, including roughly $1.6 million last week alone. 

It’s unknown who Democratic Colorado’s donors are. The group has yet to file a report on its financial backers with the Federal Elections Commission because the next disclosure deadline isn’t until July 20.

There’s also been more money spent boosting Hanks and opposing O’Dea by other Democratic groups on mailers and other political messaging.

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

The race between Hanks and O’Dea appears to be a tossup heading into Tuesday.

There’s been a dearth of polling in the race, but an internal survey released to The Colorado Sun earlier this month by O’Dea’s campaign showed that 47% of GOP primary voters were undecided, an indication that the big spending on TV ads could sway the outcome of the race. Social science studies have shown that voters tend to back candidates who they’ve heard of before.

Whoever wins the primary will face Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

Colorado Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report.


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