BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) — A long-time Colorado Republican is switching sides after he said his party has changed much in the 30 years since he became a member.
In a letter explaining to voters why he is switching to the Democratic Party, Colorado Sen. Kevin Priola cited dismay over the lack of Republicans calling out and distancing themselves from former President Donald Trump following the events of Jan. 6.
“I cannot continue to be a 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,” he wrote.
Priola said while he was campaigning in 2020, he went door-to-door for nine months in his senate district in Adams County and was “not surprised” that Trump lost the election based on the “deep concern and dissatisfaction with him, and his political theater.”
Election denialism isn’t the only issue Priola takes with his now former party, pointing to Republicans’ unwillingness to take action against human-caused climate change.
“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,” Priola wrote in his letter.
While the long-time Colorado politician will now caucus with Democrats, he said it will not change the way he votes on legislation.
“Our political affiliations have become too tribal and too much of a litmus test,” Priola said. “I’ve always been an independent thinker and sometimes buck the conventional wisdom of my party.”
Priola said his pro-life position, school choice and pro-Second Amendment stance will still run counter to the Democratic Party platform.
Priola acknowledged the change will have an impact on an upcoming election where Republicans are looking to potentially take control of the state Senate, where Democrats previously held a 20-15 majority.
Now Republicans will have to flip four seats, instead of three. Priola said Democrats need to be in charge because, in his words, “our planet and our democracy depend on it.”
“There is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge,” Priola said.
Priola is not up for reelection this cycle, as his second term in the Senate is set to end on Jan. 8, 2025.
Colorado Democrats are, predictably, praising the move. Senate President Steve Fenberg said in a statement, “Though we don’t see eye to eye on every issue, the Senate Democrats are excited to embrace Senator Priola’s leadership and diversity of thought into our caucus.”
Gov. Jared Polis on Twitter welcomed Priola to the party and said, “Senator Priola is a strong leader on climate issues & will hopefully be even more effective on the Democratic side of the aisle.”
Meanwhile, Republican critics of the move include Michael Fields, who is president of the conservative think tank Advance Colorado Institute and a political analyst for FOX31. Fields is now calling for the state senator to be recalled and said on Twitter that Priola has “been voting like a liberal for years” and “doesn’t fit his new district at all.”
Senate Minority Leader John Cooke issued a statement on Priola’s change, calling it unsurprising given Priola’s voting history siding with Democrats in recent years.
“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.”
Colorado Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown took to Twitter, calling Priola a pro-tax-increase Democrat.