Colorado State Sen. Kevin Priola Jumped The Fence Today
Colorado’s 25th senatorial district is based in the Adams County suburbs of Denver and includes parts of Aurora, Thornton, Brighton, Bennett, Strasburg and Todd Creek. There are nearly 100,000 registered voters in the district, of which 32.1% are Democrats, 24.6% are Republicans and 41.6 are independents. 47% of the people are white and 40% are Hispanic. Biden beat Trump there 52.4% to 44.6%, which was a lot better than Hillary’s 46.7% to 44.9% win over Trump 4 years earlier. But, until today, the state Senator was a Republican, Kevin Priola.
Priola is still the state Senator; he’s just not a Republican any longer. He re-registered as a Democrat today. In his letter to his constituents he absolutely slammed the hell out of Trump and Republicans who are bought into Trumpism. He was a member of the College Republicans and was first elected to the state House in 2008 and then to the state Senate in 2016. In his letter today, he wrote that he “first became a Republican in 1990 after the ascent of Ronald Reagan. He spent his presidency looking out for American interests, not cozying up to Russia. He was for free trade and not raising taxes on Americans through tariffs. He also worked across the aisle on immigration issues. Reagan taught me about the 11th Commandment: ‘Don’t speak ill of another Republican,’ which I still adhere to today. I haven’t changed much in 30 years; but my party has. In 2020, as I was campaigning for my 2nd term I went door to door in my Senate district for 9 consecutive months. After a myriad of conversations with constituents, I was not surprised that Donald Trump lost the election in November. There was a palpable difference between 2016 and 20w0. Voters from both parties as well as unaffiliated voters were expressing deep concern and dissatisfaction with him and his political theater.”
He continued that, like many Coloradans, he “watched the events on January 6th with horror. I felt that clearly this would be the last straw and that my party would now finally distance itself from Donald Trump and the political environment he created. Week after week and month after month, I waited for that response; it never came. 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. Fear-mongering the raise money or motivate voters is nothing new , but it has been taken to a dangerous and destabilizing level. I cannot continue to be part of a political party that is okay with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen.”
Writing for ColoradoPolitics this morning, Marianne Goodland reported that Priola’s announcement is not surprise. “He's been a major backer of Democratic-led proposals for the past several years. Priola is in his final term as a state senator, and will be term-limited in 2024… Priola said while there are issues that he disagrees with Democrats on, ‘there is too much at stake’ for Republican to be in charge.” [He is vehemently anti-Choice.]
Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, told Colorado Politics his caucus is excited to welcome Priola. He acknowledged that Priola's decision makes the challenge of holding the state Senate, with Democrats holding a 21-14 majority, just a little easier. "I felt confident we would retain the majority but having Sen. Priola join our caucus makes that even more likely," he said.
Fenberg acknowledged that there are Democratic issues that Priola disagrees with. In 2022, that included the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which Priola voted against, along with all the legislature's Republican members.
"It's important not to have a litmus test," Fenberg said. "You don't have to agree with the Democratic agenda to be a Democrat in every way."
But he also said the agenda will not change and that it will still be a pro-choice caucus. Fenberg indicated he's had "constructive dialogue" Priola on the issues they differ on.
In a statement, Fenberg added that Priola "chose his constituents and Colorado’s future over partisan politics."
"Senator Priola has made it clear that the people of Colorado deserve leaders who will boldly take action against the most serious threats facing our country today. Instead of bowing to the pressure of corporate, special interests and right-wing conspiracies, we must continue to take aggressive action to protect the democracy of our nation and combat the climate crisis facing our planet," he said.
Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown in a statement of her own slammed Priola, who she said had "selfishly chosen to make himself the story at the expense of Coloradans he was elected to fight for."
“Kevin Priola finally made the move to the party he’s consistently voted with. 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," she said.
"Priola will regret this decision when he is in the minority come January 2023."
Senate Minority Leader John Cooke, R-Greeley, said in a statement Monday “we should not be surprised by Senator Priola's announcement today that he is now a Democrat.
"For the last several sessions he voted with the Democrats and championed their legislative causes. 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 in the statement. "As for Senator Priola, his new district will likely not be happy with this announcement and may explore their options for new representation.”
State Rep. Colin Larson, R-Littleton, called Priola a "self-serving coward.
"This is the biggest act of self-interest political BS that the state has seen," Larson told Colorado Politics. "He should be ashamed of himself and if he had an ounce of dignity, he would resign."
Larson added that if the Republican Party had gone for "crazy town" by choosing state Rep. Ron Hanks over Joe O'Dea or Tina Peters over Pam Anderson, Priola's letter would make sense.
"Anyone in our party carrying the insurrectionist banner was roundly defeated. We're going for balance. This is more about Priola having his feelings hurt," he said.
Priola's decision now requires the GOP to win four seats in the fall election to take control of the Senate, instead of three. The GOP is heavily favored in one of those seats when redistricting moved Sen. Tammy Story, D-Evergreen, from a safe Democrat seat to a safe Republican seat. Rep. Mark Baisley, R-Woodland Park, is vying for that seat in the fall election.
State Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, who is handling strategy for the Senate GOP for November, said they recently doubled down on the five competitive seats they hope to capture.
"This really doesn't change anything," he told Colorado Politics.
Republicans must hold also onto two seats that are considered competitive in 2022: Senate District 11, currently represented by Sen. Dennis Hisey, R-Colorado Springs; and Senate District 15, represented by Sen. Kevin Woodward, R-Loveland. Redistricting shifted SD15 from a safe Republican seat to one with even chances for either party while in SD 11, the Republican advantage according to the redistricting commission is 2.4%. Voter registration shows Democrats with a slight edge but unaffiliated voters will decide the contest.
Democrats will need to hold onto Senate District 8, which includes Democratic strongholds like Eagle and Summit counties but which also now include Republican-dominant counties in northwest Colorado as well as a Republican voter registration advantage. Senate District 27, in Centennial, shows a slight Democratic voter registration advantage with a 4.7% Democratic lean, based on redistricting info. The other competitive seat they hope to gain is in Senate District 24, which includes the northern suburb of Northglenn.
Meanwhile, next door in Arizona, Republican nominees to statewide office are making it clear that the RepublicanParty has gone over to the Dark Side and is no longer even near the American mainstream. The GOP nominees for Governor, U.S. Senator, Attorney General and Secretary of State are all batshit crazy— and picked by a part base that is also batshit crazy. Take a look: