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June 14, 2022 02:58 PM UTC

Senate Hopeful O’Dea Backed Ref C, FASTER

  • by: Erik Maulbetsch

(Show Joe the Ref C money! — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Joe O’Dea, aspiring Republican nominee for U.S. Senate

Joe O’Dea, the construction company CEO who hopes to challenge U.S. Senator Michael Bennet this November, has been all over the airwaves in recent weeks advocating for limiting government and cutting spending, but he’s previously supported taxpayer-funded initiatives which have accounted for billions of tax dollars spent over the past two decades.

His current position is that government should be responsible for just three responsibilities: military, police and infrastructure. This enthusiasm for shrinking government includes a willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security, two overwhelmingly popular programs that have kept literally billions of Americans out of poverty. 

“We need to cut back our federal government to make it small and efficient, so it can do the things we need it to do: fund our police, fund our military and fund our infrastructure,” said O’Dea in the same June 1 interview with Ross Kaminsky in which he discussed cutting Social Security. He’s also praised Trump Administration cuts to safety, health and fiscal oversight agencies:

“I believe in a small, efficient government. We need to start hacking that back. I thought that what Trump was doing with the EPA [Environment Protection Agency], with what he was doing with OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], with the Internal Revenue Service, some of these things just need to be cut back.”

However, O’Dea hasn’t always been so averse to collecting and spending taxpayer dollars — specifically, over a decade ago, when he stood to gain from government funding of roads and bridges.

One of his first appearances in Colorado’s political arena was on behalf of the Colorado Contractors Association (CCA), explaining why the typically conservative group was endorsing both the Democratic and the Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2006. 

The Rocky Mountain News quoted O’Dea explaining why his organization was endorsing a Bill Ritter, the Democrat.

“I can’t remember the last time we backed a candidate that’s not a Republican,” O’Dea, who served on the CCA board, was quoted as saying. “It’s a conservative group.”

The reason for the contractors’ neutrality? According to O’Dea, it was Beauprez’s opposition to Referendum C, a ballot initiative passed the previous year permitting the state to keep more of the tax revenue it collects, above and beyond the limits imposed by TABOR. 

“Some of our members are bitter about Bob’s position on Ref C, that may have cost him with our group,” O’Dea told the Rocky.

Since Ref C’s approval by voters that year, Colorado’s nonpartisan Legislative Council staff produces a report detailing the spending of funds generated by the law. The latest figures put the total amount at $30.5 billion, the vast majority of which has been spent on education and health care. Ref C also earmarked funding for transportation, but at a far lower level, totaling just $51 million total since 2005. 

That limited amount is in part responsible for another of O’Dea’s early forays into public policy. He advised Governor Bill Ritter’s Blue Ribbon Transportation Finance Panel, which the Democrat convened in 2007 to address what he termed the “quiet crisis” of the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The Technical Advisory Committee to Gov. Bill Ritter’s Blue Ribbon Transportation Finance Panel

The panel recommended raising taxes and fees by a minimum of $500 million but noted that another billion dollars would be required to properly address Colorado’s transportation needs. 

As a member of the panel’s technical advisory board, O’Dea remained optimistic, even after the panel’s preferred $1.5 billion fee and tax increase failed to pass the legislature.

“I think some of the braver legislators are going to step out there. We’ll see who those leaders are,” O’Dea told the Durango Herald in May of 2008, just after the end of the legislative session. 

O’Dea’s prediction largely came true the following session, when Democrats raised fees on car registrations and rentals. The bill, known as FASTER, passed without a single Republican vote, but with the support of the Colorado Contractors Association, over which O’Dea was then presiding. Early the next year, as FASTER funding started to flow, CCA’s executive director Tony Milo wholeheartedly praised the bill. 

“We think [FASTER] is a critical lifeline in our transportation system,” Milo told the Denver Business Journal. “When you look at the big picture of transportation funding in Colorado … FASTER is really the only bright spot in the whole funding picture for this coming year.”

The bill was a political lightning rod at the time, particularly with Republican candidates who attacked it as overreach on the part of Democrats.

Gubernatorial hopeful Josh Penry called for the repeal of the bill.

“The car tax needs to go. It’s punitive and it’s wrong. It shouldn’t have been put into law in the first place. It’s just horribly disingenuous for anyone to rail against FASTER on one hand and then on the other, do nothing about it if elected,” said Penry of his primary opponent Scott McInnis, who also opposed FASTER, but wouldn’t pledge to repeal it.

Penry is currently a strategist with the O’Dea campaign.

The O’Dea campaign did not respond to a request for comment. This article will be updated with any response received.


11 thoughts on “Senate Hopeful O’Dea Backed Ref C, FASTER

  1. There sure seems to be a handful of moderate Democrats running as Republicans this year.  Is the progressive wing driving them out of the party, or are they running their moderates as Repubs this year?

    1. Maybe they’re copying Newt Gingrich’s strategy to “replace the left”…in reverse. 

      Or maybe they are just corporatists who are enjoying the largesse of the Oil, finance, and insurance industy donations, and like Senator Salazar, just decided to dispense with the ambiguity and go full R.

    2. Extreme left progressives are trying to purge the Democratic party of moderates, just as extremist right wing Trumpists are trying also to purge out Republicans not worshipping Trump (the so-called “RINOs”).

      1. Evidence? Examples of these dastardly progessives and their Purge Party?

        Or is this another evidence-free assertion from the guy that has no skin in the game, cause he’s on the Red team, anyway?

        My. experience in Colorado Democratic politics has been the opposite- the party faithful always try to silence progressives and suppress their candidacies, while promoting those of moderates. Example: the 2020 Senate primary, in which John Hickenlooper, after he said he didn’t want to be a Senator, was drafted to steamroll over 10 candidates, including six women who begged the DSCC to reconsider its coronation of Hick as the nominee. 
        Some of those candidates were actually fairly moderate- but they weren’t considered worthy of Democratic support.

        Even today, progressive candidates such as Ike McCorkle in CD4, or other brave souls running in competitive races, barely get the Party blessing, and very little funding or help.
        So yeah, your assertion about those mean ol’ progressives doesn’t hold water at all in Colorado. If you’re talking about other states where progressives won their primaries, the key word here is “won”. Progressives were elected, by their constituents, who agreed with their progressive policies. It’s how democracy is supposed to work, in case you weren’t aware. 

        1. Once again….projection. I said nothing specific about any campaign.

          FWIW, even secular humanists are complaining about the extreme "wokeism" on the far left and "de-platforming." I refer you to the current issue of Free Inquiry magazine. Look on the website of the Center for Inquiry ( ) 

          1. I looked at the centerforinquiry site, but found only one article complaining about the terrible “intolerance” of the 1619 project, and how exploring the real history of the slave trade and its contemporary implications is being super mean to secular humanists.

            The article itself is behind a paywall, and I didn’t dig further. 
            So yup…no evidence for your assertions that “wokeness” or progressives in general, are “purging” the Democratic party.

        2. You cannot ignore the fact that the Odd Squad and their allies have been running a party purge at the national level. Fortunately, in some places, the more-sane wing of the Democratic Party has been pushing back successfully (to wit:  NV-1)

          Nevada First Congressional District Primary Election Results 2022 – The New York Times (

          Closer to home, drafting and anointing Hick was the smart thing to do. First and foremost, results count, and Hick was able to beat Gardner without breaking a sweat.

          Since Hick had an easy path, it freed up $$$ which was spent in other states such as Georgia and Arizona which prevented McConnell from being re-elected majority leader. 

          Had one of the Also Rans ended up as the Dem nominee in Colorado, the national party would have had to sink a shitload of a lot of money into the race, just to introduce the Unknown to voters. And that is assuming that the GOP didn't make the introduction first by painting the unknown as a screwball. Hick was a very well-known quantity which made his election so easy.


          1. Yeah, actually, I can deny that the Squad is running a “party purge”. WTF are you on about? 
            Specifics, please.

            As far as the wisdom of annointing Hick, we’ll see what you say when he continues his alliance with Manchin, Synema and the other Blue Dogs to keep the filibuster andthwart Democratic progress. Hick is primarily loyal to his corporate donors, and to hell with the “little people” who voted for him. 

              1. If you are looking for any sense in the positions taken by LBIAWPOS…good luck.

                I have been waiting for something from him, besides corporate pablum and unending condescension for anyone he deems to be “leftists”, for a long time. These “conservatives” who claim “Moderate” as a title forget that everything they hold dear as a bedrock principle of the Democratic party, CAME FROM THE LEFT…NOT THE CENTER!

                Sorry for shouting…

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