DENVER (AP) — Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Joe O’Dea are meeting for their final debate Friday night as they enter the home stretch of a campaign that tests whether the GOP can win a top-tier race in the blue-trending state.
The owner of a construction company and a first-time candidate, O’Dea has tried to neutralize Bennet’s edge on social issues by supporting some abortion rights, gay marriage and a way to legalize people brought to the country illegally when they were young. He has focused on crime and inflation and capitalized on discontent over the first two years of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency.
Bennet has attacked his opponent as a typical Republican, contending his embrace of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision the U.S. Supreme Court overturned last summer, is not true support for abortion rights. O’Dea has said he approves of the conservative justices who overturned Roe and he opposes late-term abortions.
Aided by significantly more campaign money, Bennet has hammered O’Dea on the airwaves. O’Dea is also squeezed by divides within the GOP. His primary rival, State Rep. Ron Hanks, urged people to support Libertarian Brian Peotter as the only “true conservative” in the race. Trump also has slammed O’Dea after the Senate hopeful said on CNN he’d back other Republicans for the party’s presidential nomination in 2024.
Colorado Republicans have not won a top-tier race in the state since 2014, when Cory Gardner ousted Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. But Gardner was kicked out of office by the state’s voters in 2020, and he was the only top-of-the-ticket statewide Republican winner since 2004. Trump lost Colorado by 13 percentage points in 2020, cementing the state’s status as a Democratic-trending place.
The debate is at Colorado State University-Fort Collins at 7 p.m.