Construction company executive Joe O'Dea on Thursday became the seventh Republican to jump in next year's primary for the Colorado seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
O'Dea, a first-time candidate, plans to introduce himself to state voters beginning next week with a six-figure TV, radio and digital ad buy in the Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction markets, his campaign said.
"Joe Biden’s a lousy president, but he’s the president — and that’s that," O'Dea said, announcing his candidacy and at the same time attempting to put to rest an issue that has vexed other Republicans this cycle.
"I’m going to spend the next 13 months telling voters why Joe Biden and Michael Bennet are bad for Colorado and our country, not re-litigating the last election. Our focus will be — and should be — Biden’s record, because it is also Bennet’s record: Inflation, debt, American decline."
Added O'Dea: "Michael Bennet is the Democratic Party’s senator, not Colorado’s."
O'Dea is the owner of Denver-based Concrete Express Inc., a company O'Dea started when he was a student at Colorado State University that now employs more than 300 people. He and his wife, Celeste, also own the Mile High Station and Ironworks event centers under the Colfax viaduct west of downtown Denver. O'Dea formally launched his campaign Thursday evening at Ironworks.
Over the years, O'Dea has been a prolific donor to politicians from both parties, including the Democrat he is hoping to unseat.
According to Federal Election Commission reports, O'Dea gave Bennet's campaign $500 in 2010, the first time Bennet stood for election to the seat he'd been appointed to a year earlier.
Veteran Republican consultant Jefferson Thomas, who directed 2020 operations in Colorado for the Trump campaign and is a senior advisor to O'Dea, sent Colorado Politics a statement about his candidate's past donation to Bennet.
“Joe pours concrete and gives everyone a chance," Thomas said. "2010 Bennet wouldn’t recognize the 2021 Michael Bennet who votes with Joe Biden 100% of the time.”
O'Dea also donated $500 to then-Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election campaign in 2014, when the Democrat was seeking a second term as governor, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's site. He also contributed to Democratic candidates Bill Ritter and Cary Kennedy when they were running for governor and state treasurer, respectively.
Top Republican strategist Josh Penry, a former state lawmaker and a principle at political consulting firm 76 Group, is also advising O'Dea's campaign.
O'Dea joins a growing field of GOP primary candidates that has nearly doubled in size in the last week.
Others seeking the nomination to challenge Bennet include state Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Cañon City; former El Paso County GOP chair and 2008 Olympian Eli Bremer; Fort Collins developer and former city councilman Gino Campana; former oil and gas executive Erik Aadland; former congressional candidate Peter Yu; and Army veteran Juli Henry.
Colorado's Senate seat is rated as safely Democratic by a range of election forecasters, in part because the state has consistently swung toward Democrats at the top of the ticket over the past three cycles.