Bennet and O’Dea take the gloves off in final debate


On October 28, incumbent U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D) and his GOP challenger, heavy civil contractor Joe O’Dea (R), met in their only televised debate. It was held on the campus of CSU in Fort Collins. The candidates were questioned by four reporters, Luigi Del Puerto, editor at Colorado Politics, Heather Skold of KRDO News in Colorado Springs, and Kyle Clark and Marshall Zellinger of Denver’s 9News. 

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D) and challenger Joe O’Dea (R) in Ft. Collins at their final debate

After pointing to the ten poorest counties in Colorado, where “the median income is less than $38,000,” Skold asked, “How do we reverse inflation for those who cannot make ends meet?” 

O’Dea said, “It starts with the reckless spending by Bennet and (President) Biden.” He also accused his opponent and President Biden of waging “a war on energy.” Stopping those activities would address inflation, O’Dea concluded.

Bennet said, “My child tax credit last year would have meant that every one of those families would be receiving $450 a month right now to pay for groceries…rent…school clothes for their kids. I want to make that tax credit permanent. He (O’Dea) wants to make the tax cuts that Trump passed for the wealthiest people in America permanent.”

Clark addressed Bennet, noting that the Inflation Reduction Act that he voted for would reduce carbon emissions, expand the clean energy economy and lower health care costs, but not “reduce inflation in any meaningful way.” He wanted to know if Democrats misled the American people by using that title and whether “the planned spending will actually make inflation worse.” 

Bennet responded that he didn’t believe it was misleading or would increase inflation because, he said, “Unlike the Trump tax cuts, this bill was actually paid for.” He added that it will “cap drug prices at $2,000” for Colorado seniors and “require Medicare, for the first time in American history, to negotiate drug prices.”

Clark also had a question for O’Dea that pertained directly to him. He asked why government spending on construction projects that O’Dea’s company won and led to his personal wealth were “opportunity,” while other government spending was dependency. 

O’Dea responded that, “When we pay people to sit on the couch at home, that’s dependency. When we pay people to invest in our transportation system, in our water storage systems, in our economy, in our energy, those are assets that are growing.” 

Things got a little testy when O’Dea repeated more than once that Bennet had been ineffective as a senator because, according to O’Dea, he had only passed one bill in 13 years on the job. Bennet finally said, “You’re a liar, Joe. You’re a liar.” Many of Bennet’s proposals were rolled into other bills and passed that way. On that subject, Bennet said, “I’ve written 101 bills that have passed, 82 of those with a Republican cosponsor. That has been fact-checked.”

Regarding guns, the candidates were asked if they would support requiring a person to be 21 to buy a “so-called assault rifle.” Bennet said, “Yes.” O’Dea said, “I would not. No more laws.” On the question of whether they would support a total ban on these weapons, O’Dea said no. Bennet said, “I think we’ve made enough of these weapons of war in this country.”

On the issue of party loyalty, each candidate sought to tie the other to their party’s leader, while both sought to show their independence. When O’Dea accused Bennet, repeatedly, of “voting with Biden 98% of the time,” Bennet pointed to his disagreements with the administration on going to Saudi Arabia, student loan debt forgiveness, “and when he almost killed Colorado’s solar industry,” which Bennet led the fight to save. O’Dea’s recent public statement that he would work against former President Trump getting nominated to run again in 2024, which resulted in Trump calling O’Dea stupid and having a “big mouth” has been well publicized.

Skold accused Bennet of supporting “abortions up to birth,” to which Bennet pointed out that, “Only one percent of abortions in Colorado and in this country are late-term abortions and they are the worst circumstances a mother could have. These are circumstances where she’s carried the baby to term…She’s expecting the child to be there and for medically horrific reasons, she’s having to have an abortion. That’s one percent. I don’t think Joe O’Dea should be in that hospital room with her when she’s got to make that decision. I don’t think any politician should. I trust Colorado’s mothers and women. I trust America’s mothers and women.” In his answer, O’Dea said he supports a woman’s right to choose in the first part of a pregnancy.  

On immigration, Bennet said that he would unequivocally support a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for those who fit under the definition of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. O’Dea said he would not support a stand-alone bill because, “We need a comprehensive bill. We need one that safes up and secures the border, which includes putting up a barrier,” and, “In addition to that, we need to streamline our immigration system. It needs to be predictable.” Only if those issues were also addressed, O’Dea said, would he support a path to citizenship for those who fall under DACA. Bennet took the opportunity to blame the former president (Trump) for having “made it impossible for us to get anything done on immigration,” and noted, “Joe O’Dea voted for that president twice.”

In a rare opportunity to question one another, O’Dea asked Bennet if he regretted voting “for $5 trillion in spending,” to which Bennet responded that he regretted the inflation we and the rest of the world are living with as a result of a broken supply chain.

When Zellinger pointed out that he had been unable to substantiate a claim O’Dea had made that Google had “downplayed some of his ads,” and challenged O’Dea to provide evidence of it, the candidate would only say, “It’s there. You can find it.”

Although Bennet has exceeded O’Dea in fundraising, those numbers don’t take into account the millions of dollars in ads flooding Colorado’s airwaves and computers that are funded by independent expenditure committees that are targeting both candidates. National media says this race is close.