UPDATE: On Monday, O’Dea said that the Affordable Care Act should NOT be repealed. On Tuesday, he said…something different:
If you support what former President Trump wanted to do to the ACA, as O’Dea suggests, then you support gutting it altogether — because that was Trump’s oft-stated goal.
We are now just one week away from the June 28th Primary Election, which means incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet will soon find out his opponent in November. Whoever it is, the Primary campaign has ensured that both GOP hopefuls have had to tack further to the right on policy issues than they probably would have liked.
Will Republicans go with a nutball insurrectionist who represents the kind of extremist policies beloved by the GOP base? Or will voters choose a little-known Denver businessman who is just sort of making up his policy positions on the fly? There isn’t a lot of information out there for voters to make a decision; State Rep. Ron Hanks doesn’t have the resources for a significant advertising campaign, and Joe O’Dea isn’t a heavy presence on the airwaves and has been late to make his case to voters.
Undecided voters got one last chance to compare candidates thanks to a Monday forum sponsored by The Colorado Sun and CBS4 Denver. Hanks and O’Dea took questions from Sun reporter Jesse Paul and CBS4 yellow journalist Shaun Boyd, and the candidates actually provided some interesting comments that we hadn’t heard before. The full debate won’t be made available until Tuesday evening, so instead we’ll rely on this summary of the forum from The Colorado Sun:
Ron Hanks, a Fremont County resident who worked in oil and gas and served in the military, is competing against Joe O’Dea, a first-time candidate who owns a Denver construction company, for the chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November. Monday’s debate, held at The Sun’s downtown Denver office, was rescheduled from last week after Hanks was prohibited from entering the CBS Denver building because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. CBS News has a policy requiring that visitors to its buildings be vaccinated.
The Sun’s recap does a good job of breaking down candidate answers on various topics, from Abortion Rights to Climate Change. Readers of Colorado Pols are probably a bit more familiar with the candidates than the average voter, so we’re going to focus on comments from the candidates that seemed new — or at least different than what they’ve been saying for the past several months.
♦ Hanks says that he will NOT commit to accepting the results of the June 28th Primary Election if he loses. “We obviously have to see what we will see here,” said Hanks cryptically. Hanks is a firm believer in the “Big Lie” and has said that he believes Donald Trump actually won the 2020 Presidential Election, so it’s very on-brand for him to challenge election results; nonetheless, this is as definitive an answer as we’ve heard from Hanks. For his part, O’Dea says he will accept the results of the Primary Election.
Strangely, Hanks refused to commit to supporting Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters in her bid for Secretary of State. From the Sun:
When asked if he is voting for Peters or one of her two primary opponents, Hanks said “at this point, I’ll leave that private.”
Hanks has spent so much time with Peters on and off the campaign trail that we assumed he was already a staunch supporter. In April, for example, Hanks and Peters headlined an “election truth” rally in Denver with MyPillow Guy Mike Lindell. Hanks has regularly heaped praise on Peters at different events across the state and elsewhere, including at last summer’s “cyber symposium” in South Dakota.
O’Dea, meanwhile, says he plans to vote for Pam Anderson for SOS.
♦ We already knew that Hanks was in attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection — hell, he used his own personal footage of the event in a campaign ad — but Hanks provided some new details during the Sun/CBS4 forum:
Hanks said during the debate that he reached the Capitol steps that day but did not advance further.
“By the time we got there, there’s already people scurrying up the scaffolding,” Hanks said, adding that there was poor security and crowd control. “It was very ill-advised for anybody to go into the Capitol. I wouldn’t even go up the steps.” [Pols emphasis]
Hanks has long said that the insurrection was just a “peaceful gathering,” though his public comments on what he was doing that day keep changing. He used to say that he was just there as an observer. Then Hanks said he was in the crowd but didn’t do anything. NOW Hanks says he got as far as the Capitol steps. By the time Hanks finally tells the whole story, we may come to find out that he took a dump in Nancy Pelosi’s office.
O’Dea was not at the insurrection, as far as we know, but the candidates agreed on one thing:
Both candidates said Trump does not deserve blame — even in part — for the events that unfolded on Jan. 6. [Pols emphasis]
O’Dea added, however, that Trump could have done “a lot more to slow that process down.
So…the insurrection wasn’t Trump’s fault, but O’Dea wishes he would have done more to stop the thing that he had nothing to do with? Right.
♦ It’s not a surprise to hear that Hanks supports Trump for another Presidential run in 2024, but so does O’Dea, apparently:
Both O’Dea and Hanks said they would support Trump for president if he is the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. [Pols emphasis]
“There’s a lot of really good candidates that can serve an eight-year term,” O’Dea said. “I really like (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis), I like some of the other Republicans that are coming through. But if Donald Trump happens to be the Republican nominee, then I definitely won’t vote for Biden.”
Hanks said if Trump were to run, “I would support him.” He added: “I also would support (Texas U.S. Sen.) Ted Cruz or DeSantis.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is just a less-orange version of Trump, so neither Hanks nor O’Dea have much separation here.
♦ Hanks continues to say that he opposes abortion without exception, though he may have hesitated a bit in the Sun/CBS4 forum:
But when presented with the fact that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there are instances where the life of a mother could be saved by an abortion — including because of infection, preeclampsia and placental abruption — Hanks appeared open to changing his mind.
“We need to have more discussion on it,” he said. “We will talk about it more. I’m happy to talk about it more.”
O’Dea, meanwhile, believes that abortions should be allowed early in pregnancy and opposes the idea of overturning Roe v. Wade. O’Dea is opposed to late-term abortions, though he apparently doesn’t really know what that means:
[O’Dea hasn’t] defined what constitutes an early-term or late-term abortion, except to say that abortions should be banned in the last three months of pregnancy. When asked repeatedly during the debate to specifically define what he thinks is an early-term or late-term abortion, he declined…
…“It has something to do with viability. I don’t believe that I get to weigh in on that.” [Pols emphasis]
♦ Both Hanks and O’Dea oppose the current framework for a bipartisan Senate bill on reducing gun violence, even if the deal is more watered-down than a drink from a casino bar:
The prospective bill would close the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows domestic abusers to have and purchase firearms if they aren’t married to their significant other.
“It’s a long ways from legislation,” O’Dea said. “You have to see what’s in a bill before you pass it. We’ve got plenty of laws on the books already.”Hanks said he wouldn’t vote for the bill “at this point,” taking issues with how the legislation aims to incentivize states to adopt so-called red flag laws that let a judge order the temporary seizure of guns from people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.
Hanks criticized the Republican senators who have signed onto the framework. “They’re selling us out,” he said. “That’s what you get when you elect a soft Republican.”
♦ Hanks says that he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but O’Dea wants to leave the framework in place. Of course, neither candidate had any specific ideas for improvements, unless you count this nonsense quote from Hanks:
“At this point, I think good old fashioned health care is what we ought to go to,” he said. “I think people ought to be able to get insurance on their own outside of their business and their employment. I think it’s a better model.”
Ah, yes…the good old days when health insurance was both affordable and provided excellent care. 🙄
♦ Both candidates oppose providing additional foreign aid to Ukraine. Hanks doesn’t think the U.S. should have provided weapons after the Russian invasion began, while O’Dea thinks the amount of money being sent to Ukraine is too much.
♦ Hanks doesn’t believe in Climate Change, referring to it only as “weather.” O’Dea is more of a believer in man-made Climate Change, but he opposes providing subsidies for accelerating renewable energy production.
Check out The Colorado Sun for the full rundown of Monday’s forum.