BY FREDA MIKLIN
Peter Yu, Joe O’Dea, Greg Moore, Ron Hanks, Deborah Flora, Gino Campana, and Eli Bremer are running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. The primary will be held on June 28 and the general election will be held on November 8.
All seven candidates believe that they can beat incumbent U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. They had a chance to articulate why on March 31 at a forum held by the Douglas County Republican Women (DCRW) at the Douglas County Library in Lone Tree. Bill Cadman, who served in the state senate from 2007 to 2017, including two years as its president, moderated the two-hour event in which he asked a prepared set of questions to each candidate, who were given 90 seconds to two minutes to answer.
In order to reach the GOP primary ballot on June 28th, candidates must either submit at least 12,000 valid signatures on petitions from registered Republicans from every corner of the state, or, get at least 30% of the votes cast by delegates to the GOP’s state assembly on April 9. Only Joe O’Dea circulated petitions. On April 4, the Secretary of State issued a notice of sufficiency, certifying that O’Dea had submitted in excess of the required 1,500 valid signatures from each of the state’s eight congressional districts, so he will be on the GOP primary ballot on June 28th. All six of the other candidates will try to get on the ballot via the state assembly. Mathematically, a maximum of three could get 30% of the votes cast, which would be unusual, based on history. The Villager asked one candidate, Gino Campana, why he chose to try to get on the primary ballot via the state assembly. He told us he believed it was important to get the support of the delegates because their enthusiasm for the candidate drives the amount of energy they put into the election.
Campana, an environmental engineer who served on the Fort Collins City Council, talked about the American dream, which he said, President Biden had “turned into a socialist nightmare” of “overwhelming taxation and regulation” that is preventing today’s young adults from having the opportunities that their parents had.
Greg Moore, who lives in Evergreen and works at Colorado Christian University, described himself as a conservative Christian and political scientist who lived in China “on and off for about 14 years” teaching for the church. He wants to be a senator “to serve on the Foreign Relations Committee and speak into the China debate.” He would also like to see the energy industry opened up.
Eli Bremer hails from Colorado Springs and was the El Paso County GOP chair. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and served 14 years in the military, as well as representing the U.S. in the Olympics.
Joe O’Dea is the son of a police officer who grew up in Denver and “wants to be a voice for working Americans.” He started a concrete construction company that now employs 250 people. O’Dea was recently endorsed by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown.
Peter Yu, a first generation American who came from a poor family, “is running…not only to address issues affecting us today, but to make sure…that your children and your grandchildren have the same opportunities that you had, that I had, growing up.”
Ron Hanks, who is in his first term representing state House District 60, told DCRW that he had introduced two bills in the legislature, “one was for Constitutional carry and the other one was to repeal the magazine capacity limit.” He also said, “I firmly believe Trump won the last election,” and “Joe Biden is a disgrace.”
Deborah Flora, a former radio show host who lives in Douglas County, told her fellow DCRW members that Colorado’s greatest resource is its amazing people, adding, “We are at a crossroads between Marxism and freedom, that is it, full stop.”
Cadman asked the candidates to describe the top three bills they would pass, if they had the opportunity, after being elected, and to assume that the Republicans will be in the majority.
Moore named 1) “A defense upgrade; both China and Russia have hypersonic missiles and we do not,” 2) “Overturn Roe vs. Wade,” 3) “An energy plan to open up fracking, the Keystone Pipeline, get oil and gas exploration rolling again,” to promote energy independence.
Bremer would 1) Pass a budget, instead of continuing resolutions, which is Congress’s job, and 2) Define the term “woman” in federal law.
O’Dea would 1) Reduce the federal workforce by 5% each year going forward, except for the military, 2) Remove barriers to federal drilling, export natural gas and finish the Keystone Pipeline to achieve energy independence, 3) Ethics in government, starting with term limits, and ensuring that Members of Congress must abide by the same insider trading rules as do all Americans.
Yu plans to pass legislation that would 1) Prevent eliminating any source of energy unless there is a replacement for it in place, 2) Provide vocational training for high-paying jobs, including plumbers, electricians and construction workers, 3) Address the national debt and create transparency on the cost of proposed bills.
Flora will 1) Require that bills be on a single subject, eliminating thousand-page bills that include political agendas, 2) Codify parental rights, 3) Institute term limits and eliminate regulations.
Campana plans to introduce 1) A Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget and reduce the national debt, 2) “Finish that Trump wall” to secure the border, 3) A massive energy bill that prevents us from buying foreign energy.
Hanks said, “It’s all national security to me.” To enhance security, he would, 1) Finish the (border) wall, 2) Open the Keystone Pipeline and open up permits for fracking and drilling for oil and natural gas, 3) Government Accountability Act, starting with cutting the federal government to 30% of its current personnel size,” and including a sunset provision on all federal bills, requiring that they be reviewed every five years.
Next, Cadman pointed to a report that he said came from Republican Whip U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, which, according to Cadman, “exposes the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and national teachers’ unions for colluding on COVID policies…promoting union-oriented goals related to opening schools and in-person teaching.” He added that, “In the top 10 schools of 183 districts in this state, 40% of kids cannot read and write at grade level…Our kids are getting indoctrinated, not educated. What would you do?”
O’Dea responded that we need to empower parents and institute school choice.
Bremer, who was home schooled, said we need “innovation and competition,” and government subsidies of vocational education.
Flora said that she would eliminate the Department of Education. According to her data, “Across Colorado, less than 40% of children are proficient in reading and less than 30% are proficient in math.”
Moore pointed out that, “Education is not a federal issue, so it’s limited as to what we can speak into it.” He too would eliminate the Department of Education and would like to see a Parental Rights Amendment. He described Cherry Creek School District’s (CCSD) decision to eliminate naming a valedictorian as sounding like Communism, adding his opinion that, “CCSD has been one of the best school districts in the state, but I’m thinking it’s not gonna last.”
Hanks would also eliminate the Department of Education and give a federal income tax credit to parents who do not use public education, although public education is funded locally and by states, not federally. He also said that China has put “Confucius Institutes on almost every college campus” and they are teaching Marxism, so college kids “are getting indoctrinated into Communist ideology.”
According to Yu, the U.S. spends more per student on education than every other country on earth except Luxembourg, yet, he reported that, according to the Department of Education, “Only 24% of 12th graders are proficient in math and 37% are proficient in reading.”
Campana believes that the new Florida law that says children in grades K-3 should not learn about sexual orientation “is a dang good idea,” that should be adopted nationwide, and that, “any school that takes federal funding” should be “required to offer 1776 education.” He noted that he has been endorsed by former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaeffer. He believes teachers “should be hired and fired at will,” and that “competition should be encouraged in schools and between classmates.”
Cadman next asked the candidates, “Was anything handled well about COVID?” and “What do we need to be doing to prepare for the next inevitable event?”
Yu said that former President Trump used the Defense Protection Act to get a vaccine developed in less than a year and that we should reduce government regulation.
Campana complimented Operation Warp Speed and the initial PPP program. He said we “need to onshore our manufacturing, especially pharmaceuticals,” and that he would, “never support a vaccine mandate.”
Moore reminded his audience that, “In the beginning, we didn’t know what we were facing, so we have to give grace to Trump and Pence and even Fauci.” He complimented Operation Warp Speed but said that vaccines should be a choice (he is vaccinated).
Bremer said that Operation Warp Speed was a great success but a big failure was that, “we had centralized control of decision-making,” adding that, “we have to get back to local control.”
Flora hopes to “Join (U.S. Senator) Rand Paul on the Health and Education Committee to hold Fauci accountable for what he did.” She expressed doubt about the number of people who actually died from COVID, adding that, “There will be another pandemic that those who want to seize our freedoms will use to keep us down….”
Hanks said that President Trump was poorly advised on Operation Warp Speed and that he did not view it as a success, adding that, “We managed to expedite a vaccine that I have absolutely no confidence in.” He said he will not get vaccinated because, “The government lied and obfuscated the side effects,” and, “weaponized against PAs (physician assistants) and nurses that could subscribe (sic) ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine…threatening their licenses.”
O’Dea said he thought Operation Warp Speed was a success and Trump deserved the credit for it, because, “When you turn businesses loose on a problem, they solve it,” He advocated limiting the emergency powers of the governor in favor of local control because, “locals know what’s going on.”
Cadman moved on to the topics of national debt and federal spending, pointing out that, “In 1960, our national debt was 53% of GDP…Now it is 126% of GDP…$30.5 trillion as of this evening. “What are we going to do about it?” he wanted to know.
Moore suggested cutting taxes and having “a serious budget debate.” He said too much money was spent on COVID and that we should cut regulations on environmental issues.
Flora said that our debt has grown under both parties and that the Congress should say no to continuing to raise the debt ceiling, adding that we should balance the budget and get oil and gas going.
Hanks said that the government lies and he believes that the deficit is as high as at least $50 trillion, “not the $30 trillion that they’re saying,” and that, “unfunded liabilities are probably in the neighborhood of $250 trillion.” Hanks believes that we could stabilize taxes by considering a flat tax and abolishing the IRS, which would “encourage manufacturing to come back to the U.S. so that we can produce our way out of the deficit.”
Campana said he would leverage his past 30 years of running businesses and balancing budgets and his experience of reducing the deficit of Fort Collins 37% while he was on its city council. He would propose a balanced budget amendment that would include a surplus to pay down debt.
O’Dea said, “As a leader, I’ll make sure that we balance the budget and that we cut all this frivolous spending… We need to turn on the (Keystone) XL pipeline. Let’s get the federal permits going and drill again.”
Yu said that the national debt “is the biggest threat to our country,” adding that, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, in the next 15 years, the biggest government expenditure is going to be the interest on our debt, which is about $5 trillion a year…To solve the problem, we must cut the budget.”
Bremer said he “would love to see a balanced budget amendment,” but that we cannot say no to raising the debt ceiling (as Flora suggested) because it would damage our credit rating, which would cause a downward spiral resulting in our “debt payments going through the roof.” He supports privatizing Social Security and “going after the medical system,” because one quarter of our GDP is medical system payments, much of which is inside the government. Bremer believes that, “If we could go to a private-sector, innovative medical system, we wouldn’t have nearly the expense problems.”
Cadman’s last question was on energy security. Most candidates believed that we need to increase production and “end the war on fossil fuels.” Hanks would “re-establish coal” while looking into nuclear energy. Flora would take away Europe’s energy business from Russia, “then move on to Asia.” Campana said that gas stations would provide charging stations for electric vehicles—we don’t need the government to do it. Yu would look more to natural gas. Bremer said that the Democrats are shutting down our energy system under faux environmentalism.
After the April 9 GOP state assembly, we will know which candidates are still in the race and will appear on the June 28 Republican primary ballot. In Colorado, unaffiliated voters, which exceed the number of voters registered with either of the two major parties, are entitled to vote in one, but not both of the party primaries. One thing is certain—the Republican primary for U.S. Senator is likely to be more competitive than the Democratic one, which could mean independent voters will be more likely to choose to participate in it.