COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — One of the high-profile contests facing Colorado voters this cycle is the race for the US Senate. Incumbent Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, is seeking a third term in office.
He's facing Republican nominee Joe O'Dea, a political newcomer and business owner in the construction industry.
Three third-party candidates are also challenging Bennet: Unity Party Candidate T.J. Cole, Libertarian Candidate Brian Peotter, and Frank Atwood who is running as the Approval Voting Party candidate.
News 5 recently interviewed the two major party candidates, Bennet and O'Dea, to ask about issues facing families in Southern Colorado like inflation and energy costs. We met with Senator Bennet at a Democratic Party event in the Denver area, and with O'Dea at a rally with Republican volunteers in Pueblo.
Bennet said his priority if re-elected will be to make permanent the American Families Act that he co-sponsored with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. The legislation paid families $300 monthly child tax credit payments.
"We should've never let it lapse because families were getting on average $450 a month to pay for rent, to pay for food, to pay for school clothes," he said.
O'Dea believes federal spending is driving up inflation, and that a better energy policy is urgent to bring families relief.
"That's the key to putting a dagger into this inflation that we're all experiencing right now is we have to lower the price of diesel, it has to happen now," he said.
Bennet also believes a comprehensive energy bill is overdue and said the country will still use fossil fuels even as we transition to renewables.
"As we transition, because we have to do it, you see it, we're having the worst fires that we've had in the state's history, the Colorado River is half empty; and I think America on this issue can, it really is in a position to lead," Bennet said. "It's one of the things I'm most excited about."
O'Dea's priority if elected will be to address immigration. He pointed out the 15-year wait for citizenship that some of his employees who are in the US on work visas have endured.
“We need to secure that border and I think if you talk to (Minority Leader Rep. Kevin) McCarthy, he’ll tell you he would like to secure that border. I don’t care what he says, I’m going to go talk to him and say, this makes great sense," O'Dea said.
"Let's have a comprehensive bill that addresses the DACA kids, let's get their citizenship taken care of, and let's make sure that we also fix our immigration system."
Bennet wanted voters to know about some of his recent accomplishments in the Senate including the addition of $60 billion in federal support for rural broadband in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He also helped secure $10 billion in funding from both the infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act for fire safety improvements in federal forests.
"Instead of just waiting for the fires and spending $50,000 an acre to try and fix it, we said we should do the work on the front end and I was able to convince Washington that we should be able to do that," Bennet said.
A win by O'Dea could tip the balance of power in Washington where Vice President Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking votes in the 50/50 Senate. O'Dea believes his more progressive stance on issues like abortion (he's pro-choice) and support for same-sex marriage will help his campaign.
"This (election) is a referendum on Joe Biden. I’ve got a huge tent I’ve put together and it includes a lot of Trump supporters. It includes some GOP, it includes a lot of unaffiliated voters, and I’ve got Democrats that have donated to my campaign because they’re ready for a change," he said.
Both candidates said voter turnout will be the key to their victory.
"I hope they know that when they've seen the chaos back in Washington DC, I haven't been part of that," Bennet said. "I hope that they realize that the legislation that I've written, I've written not in Washington but on kitchen tables here in Colorado."
"We're excited about the tent and the coalition that we've put together," O'Dea said. "That'll get us across the finish line, I'm comfortable, on November 8th."
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