State Sen. Kevin Priola leaving GOP for Colorado Democratic Party

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FILE – Colorado Republican Sen. Kevin Priola, left, Democratic House Speaker KC Becker, center, and Democratic Sen. Lois Court discuss a proposed ballot initiative to let the state keep excess tax revenue in Denver on March 20, 2019. Citing alarm toward the Republican Party’s widespread embrace of 2020 election conspiracies, a moderate GOP Colorado state senator has switched his affiliation to Democrat. Priola’s decision, announced on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, enhances Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority in the chamber in the November midterms. (AP Photo/Jim Anderson,File)

AURORA | Adams County state Sen. Kevin Priola announced Monday he is changing parties from Republican to Democrat in light of what he says is a political party that has strayed too far from its ideals.

“To be clear, I will not be changing the way I vote on legislation,” Priola, who represents Senate District 25, part of Aurora and other Adams County communities. said in a statement. “I just simply will now cast my votes with a D next to my name instead of an R.”

Priola has held a House and Senate seat in the Colorado Legislature since 2009.

State Republicans lambasted Priola for the move.

“Kevin Priola finally made the move to the party he’s consistently voted with,” Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said in a statement. “After lying to his constituents and routinely voting for tax increases that hurt the everyday working families of his district, he’s now admitted his true affiliation: a pro tax-increase Democrat.

“Priola will regret this decision when he is in the minority come January 2023,Burton Brown said.

Some conservative politicos have already floated recalling Priola. Michael Fields, president of a conservative think tank and former state director for Americans For Prosperity, tweeted Monday, “Two things a legitimate recall effort needs: big grassroots support and money. If an effort moves forward, it would have both.”

Senate Minority Leader John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley, said in a statement that Priola’s switch was not surprising given his votes during the last few legislative sessions.

“This event will not change the trajectory of this election cycle, nor the outcome of this year’s fight for the state senate,” Cooke said. “As for Senator Priola, his new district will likely not be happy with this announcement and may explore their options for new representation.”

Priola’s change in party does not substantially effect the balance of power in the state Senate, which is dominated by Democrats. Out of 35 Colorado Senate seats, Democrats now control 21 and Republicans 14.

Priola said he was horrified by the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol and had waited in vain for his party to repudiate it, as well as former President Donald Trump, who continues to insist, without evidence, that it was stolen.

“It never came,” Priola said. “To my dismay, brave and honorable Republicans like Mike Pence, Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney and Adam Kinzinger have fought to defend the Constitution and the rule of law only to be met with ridicule and threats.”

“I cannot continue to be part of a political party that is OK with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” Priola said.

Democrats were welcoming to Priola, despite his proclaimed anti-abortion stances.

“We are a broad tent party, always seeking good ideas from the left and right to move (Colorado) forward,” Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said in a tweet. “Senator Priola is a strong leader on climate issues & will hopefully be even more effective on the Democratic side of the aisle.”

The state Democratic party echoed Polis’ comments.

“We know Senator Priola will make a strong addition to the party and that our fellow Democrats will welcome him with open arms,” party chair Morgan Carroll said in a statement.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

Priola’s statement:

 The Republican party I joined decades ago created national parks, preserved federal lands, and protected wildlife. President Nixon signed the legislation that established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Today, my Republican colleagues would rather deny the existence of human-caused climate change than taKe action. I increasingly believe this inaction is counter to our responsibility as political leaders.

With a near year-round wildfire season here in Colorado and a seemingly never ending drought already upon us, Coloradans are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis, and I believe it’s immoral to saddle the next generation of Coloradans with even worse impacts. Yet my Republican colleagues consistently, and proudly, seek to impede progress on any reasonable climate measures the legislature has undertaken-and I can’t, in good conscience, be silent about that.

For these reasons, today, I’m announcing that I have changed my party registration from Republican to Democrat. I will begin caucusing with the Democrats instead of the Republicans. To be clear, I will not be changing the way I vote on legislation. I just simply will now cast my votes with a D next to my name instead of an R. 

Our political affiliations have become too tribal and too much of a litmus test. I’ve always been an independent thinker and sometimes buck the conventional wisdom of my party, and I don’t plan to change that. I do not believe either party has a monopoly on the truth. For instance, my pro-life position, school choice, and pro-second amendment stance often run counter to the Democratic Party platform. 

I recognize we are in the midst of an election that will determine which party controls the Senate Chamber. Even if there will continue to be issues that I disagree with the Democratic party on, there is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge. Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism. Simply put, we need Democrats in charge because our planet and our democracy depend on it. It continues to be the honor of a lifetime to serve my constituents, and I will continue to fight, first and foremost, for their best interests. I believe my decision to align with truth over conspiracy is indicative of that commitment. 

Sincerely,

State Sen. Kevin Priola

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Dean
1 month ago

Well at least he is honest now to the voters. Till now those acting lessons he had taken paid off. It was hard to figure out what his thinking/ telling us and subsequent actions delivered. This answers why so much conflict. Too bad it took so long for him to discover this.

Don
Don
1 month ago

He’s so disgusted with actions over 1.5 years ago that he just had to act! What a beacon of hope and truth for us all.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

Perfect evidence that a third political party is needed. The Democrats don’t really want him and the republicans certainly don’t.

Robert Garcia
Robert Garcia
1 month ago

GOP Chair Kristi Buton’s hair on fire comment makes me think back to when Ben Knighthorse Campbell Switched to the GOP. Yeah it was disappointing but Im sure the GOP reps at the time were slapping high 5s. I don’t recall blue vitriol then like we see in the GOP today.