DENVER — Michael Bennet of Colorado has won a third term in the U.S. Senate, fending off a spirited challenge from businessman Joe O’Dea.
The Associated Press called the race for Bennet at 8:09 p.m. MT, just over an hour after polls closed in Colorado. In unofficial returns early Wednesday, Bennet was leading O’Dea by more than 12 percentage points. (See updated results here.)
“Tonight, Colorado sent a resounding message,” Bennet, a Denver Democrat and former superintendent of the city’s schools, said in a tweet. “When faced with the decision to continue building on the progress we’ve made or return to policies of the past, Colorado said we are not going back. And, together we’re going to build a better future for the next generation.”
O’Dea, in his own tweet, congratulated Bennet, adding: “We fought hard, we competed, we stayed true to our core and our beliefs, and our values. It didn't work out, but I don't have any regrets at all. Thank you Colorado.”
Bennet was appointed to the Senate in January 2009 to fill the seat vacated when Ken Salazar became secretary of the Interior. Bennet was elected to a full term in 2010 and re-elected in 2016. By the end of his next term, he will have served for 20 years in the Senate, making him the second-longest-serving Coloradan in history, exceeded only by Henry Teller’s 29 years in the Senate more than a century ago.
Early in his career, Bennet was a Justice Department counsel in the Clinton administration, and then was an executive working on business deals for Colorado billionaire investor Philip Anschutz. Later a chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Bennet now serves alongside Hickenlooper in the Senate. Both Democrats ran for president ahead of the 2020 election.
O’Dea, a construction company owner and political newcomer, campaigned largely on traditional Republican issues, pledging to “reduce inflation, cut the debt, support the police and military [and] defend working Americans.” He said he would not support new gun-safety laws.
After defeating far-right state lawmaker Ron Hanks in the GOP primary, O’Dea tried to project a more moderate image, saying he did not oppose abortion rights in the first five months of pregnancy and also announcing he did not want to see Donald Trump run for president again in 2024 after supporting him in 2016 and 2020. That latter stance drew the anger of the former president, who commented on social media that his base “doesn't vote for stupid people with big mouths,” referring to O’Dea.
O’Dea in a debate called Bennet “ineffective” in the Senate and accused the incumbent of passing only one bill in Congress in 13 years. Bennet called O’Dea a “liar” for making that claim, noting that he had authored more than 100 bills that passed the Senate as additions to other pieces of legislation, as is typical in Congress.
The race showed signs of tightening in recent weeks, and Republican leaders hopes a red wave nationwide might carry O’Dea to Washington, but no major poll of likely voters dating back to late summer ever showed O’Dea in the lead.
MORE ON ELECTION 2022
- Live Election 2022 results
- Colorado Voices: What is democracy? We asked Coloradans ahead of Election 2022
- Rocky Mountain PBS: 'I don't miss an election:' How Coloradans who can't vote still engage in democracy
- Rocky Mountain PBS: First-time Colorado voters relish the opportunity to make their voice heard in Election 2022
Mark Harden is an editor and reporter who has worked with Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Community Media, Colorado Politics, The Denver Post, The Denver Business Journal and more. You can reach him here.