Top Republicans hold annual Western Conservative Summit at Gaylord Rockies

Posted: 5:50 PM, Jun 03, 2022
Updated: 2022-06-06 15:57:56-04
2022 Western Conservative Summit

AURORA, Colo. — The 2022 Western Conservative Summit kicked off Friday at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center. The annual event lasts two days and will feature national conservative voices like Kayleigh McEnany, Betsy DeVos and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Along with booths and leadership workshops, the event will feature forums with candidates running for state and federal office, giving them an opportunity to make their final push to voters before primary ballots go out Monday.

Friday’s afternoon session featured a forum with state Rep. Ron Hanks and businessman Joe O’Dea. The two are vying to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Michael Bennet.

The decision between the two could serve as an important litmus test for the direction the Colorado Republican Party is headed and where voters stand on the issue of election integrity.

Hanks has been one of the loudest voices in the state for questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election. He has called for Colorado to get rid of its universal vote-by-mail system and require in-person voting and only on Election Day. He has also called for all ballots to be hand counted within 24 hours of the election.

O’Dea, on the other hand, has publicly stated that the election was not stolen and has criticized Hanks repeatedly for making false claims about the election.

However, throughout the forum, Hanks did not discuss the topic of election security, instead focusing on things like border security, national security and eliminating the Department of Education. He said the U.S. is at a crossroad and asked the crowd if they want to be the party of life and liberty.

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During a question-and-answer section, Hanks was asked about when life begins, to which he responded conception. He was also asked about recent mass shootings and said he does not plan on infringing on Second Amendment rights of Americans.

O’Dea, meanwhile, focused on his personal story, using the forum as a chance to introduce himself to conservative voters. He promised to focus on bringing down inflation and crime rates.

O’Dea admitted during his speech that he does not completely agree with some of the most conservative candidates, like Hanks, when it comes to abortion. When asked when does life begin, O'Dea said that decision is between a person and their god, and it’s not the role of government to intervene. On mass shootings, O’Dea said there are hundreds of gun laws on the books, but said you can’t legislate against evil. He called for more police officers to be put into classrooms, and said he would support teachers going through training to be able to carry a firearm in a classroom.

Both candidates agreed that the country is heading in the wrong direction, and both promised to be the voice of change if they are elected.

Republicans have openly called the 2022 midterm election a referendum on President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s policies. However, before either candidate squares off with Bennet, the primary election could serve as a referendum between moderate and far right Republicans to decide which direction the party is headed in the state.