Colorado’s close and contentious race between Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Joe O’Dea could determine which party controls the United States Senate. As both candidates appeal to moderate voters, it remains uncertain whether Colorado will choose the liberal incumbent or the moderate Republican.
In recent elections, the state of Colorado has favored Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton won the state in the 2016 presidential election and Joe Biden won the state in 2020. Despite this, Colorado is notoriously purple, and the 2022 Senate race could reinstate Colorado’s former place among the swing states. With the political make-up of the United States Senate hanging in the balance – currently the Senate is split evenly between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans – Colorado’s tight race between the Democratic incumbent Senator Michael Bennet and the republican candidate Joe O’Dea could have a profound impact on which party controls the U.S. Senate.
As of November 1st, the polls place Senator Bennet in the lead by around eight points, but the race is close, causing both parties to focus their attention on undecided voters. According to Politico, “Senate Republicans’ top [political action committee] moved $1.25 million into the state just over a [couple weeks] ago, as outside Democratic groups in the last month have steered more than $9 million to the Colorado race.” These attempts to sway Coloradans are not ill-founded. Colorado elections are well known for their mail-in and early voters, and, as of October 30th, the split between the parties is relatively equal. Out of those who have already cast their votes, 33% are Democrats, 30% are Republicans, and 37% are either independents or members of another party. With such a large part of the population showing loyalty to neither the Democrats nor the Republicans, both Senator Bennet and Mr. O’Dea are rushing to win over the moderate voters.
Currently, many elections throughout the 50 states are dominated by candidates representing either the extreme left or the extreme right. In the wake of the Trump administration, the January 6th riot, and the more recent Dobbs ruling, the Republican Party has been obsessed with radical conservatives, many of whom deny the legitimacy of President Biden’s election to the White House. Others are embroiled with accusations of brutally slaughtering puppies or pressuring women into having unwanted abortions, so it is a surprise to see a relatively moderate Republican run for office. Mr. O’Dea has not denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results and shows a unique willingness to separate himself from the majority of his party; however, is this enough to win over the independents in Colorado? After all, restraining from vocally opposing the authenticity of verified presidential election results, and distancing oneself from politicians that engage in hate speech while disrespecting liberty and equality is something that should be expected from anyone running for office.
Despite both Senator Bennet and Mr. O’Dea’s desire to appeal to moderate, independent voters, in their final heated debate on October 28th, the candidates still clashed on many contentious issues. Colorado is a state that has experienced some of the most horrific mass-shootings in the country, yet Mr. O’Dea made it clear that he has no intention of supporting any new gun regulations. Conversely, Senator Bennet remained firm in his support of regulating assault weapons. Furthermore, according to the New York Times, “the two men feuded over abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, with Mr. O’Dea accusing his opponent of adopting an ‘extreme’ that would place no limits on when the procedure could occur.” In an election season when many voters are outraged by the overturning of Roe and the criminalization of abortion in a growing number of states, many independents may vote for the candidate who supports their right to control their own body.
As both parties seek to win Colorado’s seat in the Senate, the voters are faced with the important choice of who they want to represent them. Either way, whether Senator Michael Bennet or Joe O’Dea win the election, Colorado’s election results will impact the overall make-up of the U.S. Senate. This one seat may just determine whether the next Senate is blue or red.
Kaymen Noel Story is a first-year student double majoring in International Studies and Political Science. She is a Staff Writer for the Agora.