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, October 6, 2022 EDITOR'S PICK Ron Hanks, who lost GOP primary to Joe O'Dea, endorses Libertarian in Colorado's US Senate race

The Republican who lost Colorado's U.S. Senate nomination to Joe O'Dea threw his support behind Libertarian Brian Peotter on Wednesday, calling the third-party nominee "the only conservative on the ballot." State Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Cañon City, who trailed O'Dea by about 9 points in the June primary, said in a lengthy statement that a vote for Peotter in the top-ticket race will deliver a "resounding message" that grassroots conservatives are fed up with the GOP and want a return to the party's principles. "If there were a real Republican on the Colorado ballot for U.S. Senate, I would support him or her. There isn’t," Hanks said. "There is only a fake Republican, a pay-to-play opportunist with no conservative values or agenda. He merits no support, and he’s not likely to get much. Let the COGOP know we will have a party with conservative principles, not squishy candidates with a power fetish." O'Dea, a wealthy construction company owner and first-time candidate, is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who is seeking a third full term. National Democrats spent upwards of $5 million in the primary in an attempt to steer the nomination toward Hanks, a hard-line conservative who was viewed as a less formidable challenger to the incumbent in the increasingly Democratic-leaning state. Hanks said that O'Dea's position on abortion rights — one where the nominee says he disagrees on the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and would only ban abortion after 20 weeks pregnancy — is one reason he's endorsing Peotter, who describes himself as staunchly "pro-life." "Foremost among conservative principles is protecting the unborn," Hanks said, noting the two candidates' positions. "To O’Dea, apparently, some murders in the womb are acceptable, depending on the calendar." Calling Hanks "a man I respect and esteem," Peotter said he welcomes the endorsement. "Representative Ron Hanks is as fearless as they come, and one of the few politicians to stand up on principle against a feckless establishment when it is wrong," Peotter said in an email. Hanks predicted that the upcoming general election will be a "powerful referendum" on what he termed the "squishy state party, their wealthy donors and RINO media pundits," using an derisive acronym for "Republican in name only." The O'Dea campaign dismissed Hanks' move. "Joe O’Dea is going to beat Michael Bennet because Republicans, independents, Libertarians and a whole lot of working class Democrats are frustrated and angry about the direction the country is headed under Joe Biden, Michael Bennet, and the far-left of the Democratic Party," O'Dea spokesman Kyle Kohli said in a text message. Most recent polling shows O'Dea running about 10 points behind Bennet, and national party committees have yet to treat the Colorado race as competitive, with only modest spending in the state since the primary. Hanks cited Bennet's likely win in November as a reason for Republicans and other conservatives to abandon the GOP nominee. "[W]e know the COGOP’s candidate O’Dea has near-zero chance of being elected. Thus, Colorado Conservatives should stand up and defend their belief in conservative principles by voting for conservative principles," Hanks said. "Such a vote is not an abandonment of our true, honest, beloved Republican Party — it is a statement that we clearly see Colorado’s Republican Party has abandoned us. Colorado’s Grassroots Conservatives want our party back. We can leave this sclerotic COGOP a resounding message that unelectable establishment candidates are not worth our time, money, or consideration." Colorado Republican Party Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown rejected that argument in a statement to Colorado Politics. “In January, Colorado’s U.S. Senator will either be Michael Bennet or Joe O’Dea," Burton Brown said. "As a conservative Republican myself, the only way to hold Joe Biden accountable is to defeat Bennet — a senator who has repeatedly surrendered when pushed to fight for Colorado. Conservatives and Republicans across the state know this, and they are overwhelmingly committed to voting for Joe O’Dea.” Bennet's campaign didn't respond to a request for comment. Mail ballots start going out to most Colorado voters in two weeks. They're due back to county clerks by Nov. 8.

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