Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, and his Republican opponent, Joe O’Dea, battled over abortion rights and gun control on Friday night in a combative debate that was their last face-to-face meeting before the Nov. 8 election.

As someone vying to represent a state that has been the site of some of the nation’s worst mass shootings but who also embraces gun rights, Mr. O’Dea, a construction company owner, said he would support no new gun laws, while Mr. Bennet voiced support for an assault weapons ban and raising the age for the purchase of such weapons from 18 to 21.

“We have plenty of laws on the books,” said Mr. O’Dea, who said he favored strong enforcement of existing statutes and stationing more police in schools.

Mr. Bennet, who supported a recent bipartisan gun safety law, when asked if he would back an assault weapons ban, said, “I think we have made enough of these weapons of war in this country.” Both men said they would not back a 10-day waiting period on gun purchases.

In contrast to their debate earlier in the week, the two men feuded over abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, with Mr. O’Dea accusing his opponent of adopting an “extreme” that would place no limits on when the procedure could occur.

“I can’t vote for late-term abortion,” said Mr. O’Dea, who supported a failed 2020 state referendum that would have banned abortion after 22 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Mr. Bennet said that abortion in the final stages of pregnancy is very rare and usually is because of a mother’s need to make a “medically horrific” decision.

“I don’t think Joe O’Dea should be in that hospital room when she makes that decision,” he said.

In one of the more tense moments of the night, Mr. Bennet, who is seeking a third full term, strenuously objected to Mr. O’Dea’s assertion that he had passed only one bill during his 13 years in office, a reference to the number of individual measures the senator has introduced that passed on their own.

Mr. Bennet noted that he had written more than 100 bills that were incorporated into bigger pieces of legislation and approved by the Senate, which is the path to passage for most bills in Congress.

When Mr. O’Dea repeated the claim regarding the one bill, Mr. Bennet responded: “You’re a liar, Joe.”

Mr. O’Dea said he saw the issue as legitimate because it showed that Mr. Bennet was not producing. If elected, he said he would try to use his position more like Senator Joe Manchin III, the centrist Democrat from West Virginia, positioning himself as a swing vote to win concessions.

“You are ineffective,” he told Mr. Bennet.

Mr. O’Dea also criticized Mr. Bennet for his support of $80 billion for improving Internal Revenue Service operations, including to beef up enforcement, saying that money would result in Coloradans coming under more scrutiny by the agency.

“You don’t need 87,000 I.R.S. agents to go after the upper 1 percent,” Mr. O’Dea said, repeating a misleading talking point about the funding — included in Democrats’ sweeping climate, health and tax measure — most of which would not go to the hiring of I.R.S. agents.

Mr. Bennet defended the I.R.S. investment, saying it was needed to restore staffing at the department to earlier levels to improve service and to crack down on wealthy Americans and corporations not paying their fair share in taxes.

“People like Joe, the richest people in America, are getting away with murder,” Mr. Bennet said, referring to Mr. O’Dea’s personal wealth.

Republicans are hoping for an upset in Colorado to cement a new Republican majority, but Mr. Bennet continues to lead in polls and has vastly outspent Mr. O’Dea on television ads.



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