Briefline

GOP Senate candidates discuss guns, abortion at conservative conference

By: - June 3, 2022 4:21 pm

U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea speaks at the Western Conservative Summit in Aurora on June 3, 2021. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

With abortion access poised to be a key election-year issue, U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, who would not support a total ban on abortion, appealed to conservative voters Friday by arguing they have more in common than not.

“I know my position on abortion isn’t the same as all of yours, but we share some common ground. I support an end to elective late-term abortion nationally, and an end to taxpayer funds for abortions nationally,” the Republican told attendees of the Western Conservative Summit during an afternoon candidate forum on the first day of the two-day event.

“I don’t support a total ban early in the pregnancy or for certain emergencies, but I do oppose both Polis’ and Schumer’s reckless late-term abortion bills,” he said, referring to the recently enacted Reproductive Health Equity Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act, which failed in the Senate in May. In Colorado, RHEA codified existing abortion access into state law.

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O’Dea told moderator and conservative radio host George Brauchler that the decision to have an abortion should be between the pregnant person and their doctor, and that the federal government should not be involved.

The first-time candidate and construction company owner went on to emphasize “common ground” he has with Republican voters on the issues of fighting inflation, securing the southern border, defending the Second Amendment and balancing the budget.

“On these positions, as conservatives, we are united,” he said. “I may be an outsider, but I’m a conservative to my core.”

The abortion stance, however, is a contrast to his primary opponent, state Rep. Ron Hanks. Hanks does not support abortion access at any stage of pregnancy — or for any reason, including fatal complications like ectopic pregnancies.

“It may be a social issue, but more important than that, it is murder,” Hanks said.

The candidates answered nearly the same questions during two separate conversations with Brauchler, including one on the federal government’s role in reducing gun violence and school shootings. A recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas left 19 children and two teachers dead and has renewed gun control conversations in Congress.

“We have to maintain our Second Amendment rights, but we have to have secure schools as well. I would put money and energy towards securing our schools,” Hanks said, without offering details on what security measures he would support.

O’Dea also called for more school security policies, and said he wants to see more police officers on school grounds. He also expressed support for the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response program, which trains teachers who conceal carry to respond in emergencies.

“That’s a fiscally responsible way to do this — to make sure they are armed,” he said.

Hanks and O’Dea are vying for the Republican nomination to compete against incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet this November.

Hanks secured the top ballot line for the June 28 primary with the highest vote share at the GOP state assembly in April.

The Western Conservative Summit will continue on June 4 and feature a gubernatorial candidate forum with Heidi Ganahl and Greg Lopez in the afternoon session.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:20 p.m. on June 3 to accurately reflect that Ron Hanks is a state representative and Michael Bennet is a senator. 

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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