DENVER (CBS4) - Colorado's Republican Senatorial candidates carved out different positions on abortion rights at the Western Conservative Summit. Ron Hanks and Joe O'Dea face each other on June 28 to see who will take on Democratic incumbent, Michael Bennet, this fall.
Both are anti-abortion rights, but O'Dea, a first-time candidate and businessman, supports some exceptions, while Hanks, a State Representative and military veteran, does not.
With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade this month, the issue could play an outsized role in both the primary and general election. The candidates fielded questions at the annual conservative gathering, including "when does life begin?"
It is a question that can make or break a Republican campaign in Colorado, and one you expect an event hosted by Colorado Christian University.
Hanks didn't hesitate, "Life begins at conception."
O'Dea, who supports exceptions for rape, incest and a mother's life, responded, "I believe the decision between person and their God." He said while his position may not be popular with the Christian conservative crowd, it was consistent.
"I'm going to shoot straight with you. Ron Hanks has his finger in the wind."
O'Dea suggested his opponent's position was one of political expedience. Hanks insisted there was no middle ground on abortion.
"When we fight for life, we don't fight for life some of the time. We fight all of it because everyone deserves a birthday."
This year, as a state representative, Hanks sponsored a bill to abolish abortion with no exceptions.
"It is murder, and that is something that we have to decide where we are on that position."
But in 2010, as a California congressional candidate, Hanks position appears different. He says in a survey that he is "pro-life but will hold open a measured and narrow window for medical experts."
O'Dea said Republicans couldn't afford a candidate who would change his position, "A Republican majority in Senate is vital to the future of this country. We don't need a flip-flopping politician on stage debating Bennet."
Hanks was voted onto the ballot overwhelmingly by Republicans at the state assembly and, as such, he says he is the true conservative in the race.
O'Dea petitioned onto the ballot and says he has a broad coalition backing his candidacy, including unaffiliated voters. Whoever emerges from the primary, will need unaffiliated voters to win in November. They now represent 45% of Colorado's electorate.
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