United States Senate election in Colorado, 2022
The 2022 United States Senate election in Colorado will take place on November 8, 2022. Voters will elect one of the two U.S. Senators from Colorado, with the winner serving a six-year term from January 3, 2023 to January 3, 2029. This crucial election will determine which party controls the Senate, currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.
Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet is running for re-election. The Republican nominee is construction company owner Joe O’Dea, who emerged victorious after a competitive GOP primary. Several third party and independent candidates are also running.
This article provides an overview of the key candidates, their backgrounds, platforms, fundraising, and controversies. It also covers important dates, polling, predictions, and issues impacting the Colorado Senate race.
Overview of Colorado Senate Seat Up for Election in 2022
Michael Bennet, a Democrat first elected in 2010, is the incumbent U.S. Senator from Colorado up for re-election in 2022. He previously served as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools and managed Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s successful campaign before being appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat in 2009.
Senate Class and Term Length
Senators are divided into three classes, with one class being up for election every two years for six-year terms. The Colorado Senate seat up for election in 2022 is Class 3.
The winner of this election will serve a full six-year term from 2023 to 2029. They will be next up for re-election in 2028.
Importance of Race for Control of Senate
Democrats currently hold a razor thin 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes. The party in power will be determined by a handful of competitive Senate races across the country.
Political analysts have rated the Colorado race as “Lean Democrat” or “Likely Democrat”. While Bennet is favored, a Republican upset could tip control of the Senate in the GOP’s favor. This makes the stakes extremely high for both parties.
Timeline of Key Dates
To understand the progression of the Colorado Senate race, here are some key dates in the election timeline:
Candidate Filing Deadline
The deadline for candidates to file to run in Colorado’s Senate primaries was March 15, 2022. This kicked off the primary process that would decide each party’s nominee.
Primary Election Date
Colorado held its Senate primary elections on June 28, 2022. Michael Bennet ran unopposed on the Democratic side. The Republican primary was more competitive, with Joe O’Dea prevailing over his main rival, Ron Hanks.
General Election Date
The Colorado general election will take place on November 8, 2022. This is when voters will make the final choice between Democratic candidate Michael Bennet, Republican candidate Joe O’Dea, and several third party and independent candidates.
Background and Experience
Michael Bennet has served as U.S. Senator from Colorado since his appointment in 2009. Now running for his third term, he has touted his track record and experience throughout the campaign.
Prior to the Senate, Bennet worked as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools where he enacted education reforms. He also chaired Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper’s successful mayoral campaign before becoming his chief of staff.
Bennet grew up in Washington D.C. as the son of a State Department official. He earned his undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University and law degree from Yale University.
Campaign and Platform
Bennet is campaigning on protecting abortion rights, reducing prescription drug costs, investing in renewable energy, and banning assault weapons. He paints himself as a pragmatic moderate focused on concrete achievements rather than partisan rhetoric.
While considered a favorite in the general election, Bennet first had to fend off primary challengers from his left flank. He argued he could balance progressive goals with more centrist appeals needed to win statewide in Colorado.
Bennet faced two little-known progressive challengers in the Democratic primary – scientist Dan Chapin and software engineer Tara Zupancic.
Chapin advocated for Medicare-for-All and slammed Bennet as beholden to corporate donors. Zupancic also argued Bennet was insufficiently progressive on issues like climate change and economic inequality.
However, Bennet’s superior name recognition and fundraising allowed him to easily dispatch these rivals, winning the nomination with only marginal opposition.
Background and Experience
Joe O’Dea emerged from a crowded Republican primary field as the GOP nominee to take on Michael Bennet. He is hoping to flip the seat red by showcasing his business background.
O’Dea is the CEO of Concrete Express, a construction company he built from the ground up. He cites this experience to argue he is best positioned to address economic challenges.
Originally from New Jersey, O’Dea moved to Colorado in the early 1980s. He has no prior political experience but believes his outsider status will appeal to voters frustrated with dysfunctional partisan gridlock.
Campaign and Platform
O’Dea is campaigning as a moderate, distancing himself from the far-right MAGA wing of the GOP. He supports some gun restrictions like red flag laws and at one point took a pro-choice stance on abortion.
His main priorities include reducing inflation, cutting government spending, securing the border, and achieving energy independence by unleashing domestic oil and gas production.
O’Dea must convince conservative voters wary of his moderate positions to coalesce behind him for a chance at winning the crucial Senate seat.
Background and Experience
Ron Hanks, a state representative, was O’Dea’s main rival for the Republican nomination. He ran as an unapologetic right-wing populist, embracing voter fraud claims, hardline immigration policies, and controversial social stances.
Hanks has served in the Colorado House of Representatives since 2021. He previously had an over three decade long career in the U.S. Army and Reserves, retiring as a Major.
A native of Illinois, Hanks established residency in Fremont County, Colorado in 2014. He has been married for 46 years and has 4 children and 18 grandchildren.
Campaign and Platform
Hanks described himself as an “America First Christian Patriot” and campaigned on issues like abolition of the FBI, completing the border wall, and banning vaccine and mask mandates.
He sought to align himself fully with the MAGA wing of the party and gained the support of Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
However, Hanks’ extreme stances ultimately led primary voters to choose the more electable and moderate O’Dea as their Senate nominee. But he did demonstrate the grip Trumpism still has on the GOP base.
Other Primary Candidates
Over a dozen other candidates jumped in the Republican primary, including businessmen, doctors, an Olympian, and other assorted newcomers to politics. Most were underfunded and unknown long shot challengers.
Notable names included businessman Gino Campana, non-profit leader Deborah Flora, and Eli Bremer, former chair of the U.S. modern pentathlon team. They split establishment support during the early stages of the primary before uniting behind O’Dea as the frontrunner.
Third Party and Independent Candidates
Beyond the two major parties, voters will also see candidates from alternative parties on their Senate ballot, providing more ideological options.
The Libertarian nominee for Senate is Brian Peotter, an aerospace engineer based in Colorado Springs and perennial candidate for office.
Peotter is campaigning on eliminating taxes, dismantling the Federal Reserve, non-interventionist foreign policy, and protecting civil liberties. He provides an option for fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters.
Unity Party candidate T.J. Cole is an Army veteran and middle school teacher running a grassroots populist campaign. He advocates electoral reforms like ranked choice voting, overturning Citizens United, and limiting Congressional terms.
Cole also supports Medicare-for-All, student debt forgiveness, and UBI funded by cutting military budgets, positions aimed at both left and right-wing populists.
Approval Voting Party
Frank Atwood, an electrical engineer, is running under the banner of the Approval Voting Party – a movement seeking to reform elections through allowing voters to choose multiple candidates on their ballot.
Atwood’s platform mixes approval voting advocacy with libertarian views on guns, taxes, and crypto currency as well as environmentalist stances on climate change and renewable energy.
There are also three totally unaffiliated independent candidates running write-in campaigns – Tom Harvey, Joanne Rock, and Robert Messman. They face extraordinarily difficult odds without major party backing.
Harvey and Rock provide no real policy information, while Messman’s platform appears aligned with right-wing conspiracies. They seem unlikely to gain any measurable support.
Fundraising totals provide insights into the financial resources available to each candidate. Incumbent Michael Bennet has dominated the money race. As of the latest October 2022 FEC filings:
- Michael Bennet (D): $22.4 million raised
- Joe O’Dea (R): $6.4 million raised
- Ron Hanks (R): $900k raised
- T.J. Cole (Unity Party): $7k raised
- Brian Peotter (L): No report filed
Bennet’s huge financial advantage has allowed him to massively outspend O’Dea on ads and campaign infrastructure. However, national Republican groups are now pouring millions into the race to boost O’Dea’s underfunded challenge.
Latest Polls and Predictions
Recent polls have shown Michael Bennet leading Joe O’Dea by margins ranging from 7% on the low end to 17% on the high end. The polling averages calculate Bennet’s lead to be around 11 points.
This polling edge, combined with Bennet’s deep war chest and Colorado’s Democratic leanings, have led election forecasters to rate the race as “Likely D” or “Lean D”. While O’Dea still has a shot at pulling off an upset, Bennet is clearly favored as the incumbent.
Barring a significant late shift in the dynamics of the race, Michael Bennet appears poised to secure his third Senate term this November. But O’Dea will certainly aim to make the campaign competitive down the home stretch.
Issues and Controversies
Abortion, gun control, and inflation are among the major flashpoint issues that have shaped the dynamics of the race.
With Roe v. Wade overturned, both candidates have sought to leverage the issue of abortion rights to their advantage.
Bennet has made protecting legal abortion central to his campaign. O’Dea has shifted to a middle ground stance, opposing an absolute ban after previously taking an anti-abortion position.
Following the tragic King Sooper’s mass shooting, Bennet has advocated for an assault weapons ban which O’Dea opposes. But O’Dea has staked out a moderate stance backing red flag laws and some new restrictions.
Economy and Inflation
O’Dea has worked to pin high inflation and economic pessimism under Democratic leadership on Bennet. But Bennet touts his votes for landmark bills like the Inflation Reduction Act which contained major Democratic accomplishments.
These clashing frames on salient issues help explain the dynamics underlying voter preferences in this highly consequential race.
[To be filled in with results after November 8th]
The Colorado Senate candidates offer voters distinct choices reflecting the broad ideological spectrum across both major parties as well as alternative options outside the partisan duopoly.
Michael Bennet provides stability and continuity as the incumbent Democrat in a state trending increasingly blue over the last decade. Joe O’Dea makes the case for a more centrist direction led by an outsider. And third party candidates give voice to those disillusioned with the two-party system.
The outcome of this fiercely contested race will go a long way toward determining which party controls the Senate chamber in 2023 and beyond. Voter turnout and enthusiasm may prove decisive in shaping our national political landscape in these highly polarized times. Colorado once again finds itself at the center of the electoral map.
Q: Who is the Democratic candidate in the Colorado Senate race?
A: The Democratic nominee is Michael Bennet, the incumbent Senator first elected in 2010 seeking re-election for a third term.
Q: Who is the Republican candidate in the Colorado Senate race?
A: The Republican nominee is Joe O’Dea, a construction company CEO and first time political candidate who defeated several more right-wing primary challengers.
Q: What are some key issue differences between Bennet and O’Dea?
A: Key issues separating the candidates include abortion, where Bennet supports codifying Roe v. Wade protections and O’Dea opposes an absolute ban; also gun control, the economy, healthcare, and more.
Q: What third party candidates are running in the Colorado Senate race?
A: Third party options include Libertarian nominee Brian Peotter, Unity Party candidate T.J. Cole, Approval Voting Party’s Frank Atwood, and some unaffiliated independents.
Q: What is current polling showing in the Colorado Senate race?
A: Recent polling averages give Bennet around an 11 point lead over O’Dea. Forecasters rate the race as “Likely D” or “Lean D” given Colorado’s leftward tilt.