DENVER (KDVR) — Just before a critical election for lawmakers at the state Capitol, a shake-up: State Sen. Kevin Priola announced his departure from the Republican Party on Monday morning. The senator from Brighton said he is now a Democrat.
Priola is no stranger to working with Democrats to get bills passed, but with the power of the chamber potentially up for grabs, he decided to join them for good.
Senate Minority Leader John Cooke said he found out Priola was leaving his party via email Monday morning just before the announcement was made public.
“Very disappointed that he felt the need to do this, and I don’t think there was even really a good reason,” Cooke said.
“If it’s a pro-life issue, if it’s a Second Amendment issue, that type of thing — absolutely, I would encourage people to work with him,” Cooke said. “If it’s on more taxes and fees, and more government regulation, then I would say to my members, no, don’t work with him on those issues because we’re not going to give up our core values.”
Like other Republicans, Priola voted against the Reproductive Health Equity Act.
But on other bills like the state’s 2021 transportation bill, he was the only Republican in the Capitol standing with Democrats.
His move led FOX31 political analyst Michael Fields, president of the conservative think tank Advance Colorado Institute, to suggest a recall.
“He’s now in a district that leans Republican that he’ll be representing. I just think that his policies are out of touch with that district. I think that his decision to change parties, et cetera — voters should have a right to recall him and put somebody that represents his views more in that office,” Fields said.
Cooke said he will not be leading that effort, but voters have the right to pursue that if they wish. FOX31 political analyst Andy Boian, a Democratic strategist and former White House adviser, said he does not think that is likely.
“It would be a very hard process to get him recalled, particularly not only because he’s true to his word, and I think he’s done nothing wrong and I think voters will see that,” Boian said.
Democrats are welcoming Priola with open arms. Gov. Jared Polis said the party always welcomes good ideas from the left and the right. While Republicans were disappointed by Priola’s move, they still believe they can flip the Senate come November.