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Colorado Senate hopeful O’Dea defies most U.S. voters by echoing Trump’s ‘build the wall’ rhetoric

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July 14, 2022, 10:58 am
border wall Tijuana
A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. Wiki Commons photo.

Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea made his fortune building large public works projects including transit stations, highways, and bridges. In the closing days of the last month’s primary, O’Dea promised GOP voters that if elected to the U.S. Senate, he’ll complete Trump’s largest and most controversial construction project — the border wall.

On the day before the primary election, the O’Dea campaign texted voters a six-second video in which O’Dea says, “Want to build the wall? Hire a contractor!”

The line was clipped from O’Dea’s speech at the 2022 Western Conservative Summit (WCS), an annual conference organized by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood. 

The border-wall line was intended to fire up the ultra-conservative WCS crowd that day, and presumably to do the same for as-yet undecided primary voters on June 27 when it appeared on their phones.  

O’Dea, a Republican, elaborated on his immigration position in an on-stage interview at the WCS with KNUS talk radio host George Brauchler. 

Asked what he would do about open borders, O’Dea responded bluntly, “Shut the border! That’s easy. Build the wall. Hire a contractor — I’ll take care of it. We’ll get it built.”

This position puts him at odds with most Americans, who didn’t support Trump’s wall proposal when he made it the centerpiece of his first presidential campaign and of his term in office. A recent national poll shows 59% of the public is in favor of either increasing immigration levels or keeping them where they are, while just 41% want less immigration. Another national poll of voters in U.S. Senate battleground states found that 73% of voters support “a functioning immigration system, that works for both businesses and people,” that would improve our economy and allow “a way for immigrants to work here in a legal, fair, and safe way.”

O’Dea’s promise to shut the border also seems to contradict a statement he made back in March to promote a Spanish-language radio campaign ad. 

O’Dea celebrated his company’s “decades [of hiring] …first- and second-generation immigrants from across Latin America,” a practice which would presumably end (at least for first-generation immigrants) if the border were to actually close.

Reached via email, O’Dea campaign spokesman Joshua Marin-Mora offered the following statement: “Joe O’Dea believes in building the wall, securing the border, ending the flow of fentanyl and human trafficking across our border, fixing the process, and giving a permanent status to Dreamers.”

In support of that statement, Marin-Mora also provided several other previous O’Dea press statements, all of which offered more details on his unspecified hopes for an improved immigration policy. In a clipped exchange with the Associated Press, O’Dea ignored the reporter’s direct question of whether he favors raising, lowering, or keeping immigration levels where they are today.

AP: “Do you think that we should have more or fewer, or the same, number of legal immigrants in the country?”

O’Dea: “I said in there we need to fix our border, because that’s one issue- it’s fentanyl, it’s human trafficking, it’s cartels, and it’s the illegal immigration. But we also need to fix our immigration system… We’ve gotta fix the immigration system, so good working people can come here. This is a land of immigrants.”

Only one featured O’Dea saying “we’ve gotta close the border.” It was his on-air Colorado Sun/CBS4 primary debate with Ron Hanks.

Among Colorado’s Latino community, which comprises approximately 22% of the state population, immigration reform topped the list of issues for federal officials to address, according to a poll conducted last August by the Colorado Latino Policy Agenda. 

The only other image in the June 27 text video touted O’Dea’s endorsement by “Donald Trump’s Top Cop,” referring to former U.S. Attorney for Colorado Jason Dunn. It wasn’t the only time the O’Dea campaign pushed pro-Trump messaging to bolster the candidate with the ultra-conservative GOP base. A week earlier, the campaign sent another text blast noting endorsements from three other Trump administration appointees and one campaign official. 

Much like his hardline immigration position, however, that Trump-aligned stance likely becomes a liability in November, particularly because his opponent, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, has denounced the wall.

A 2019 Bennet speech against the “ludicrous” border wall went viral.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on the Colorado Times Recorder.

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